Tuesday Wake-Up Call: Facebook Is Tweaking Your News Feed, Again. Plus, the Latest Super Bowl Ads

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Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital-related news. You can get an audio version of this briefing on your Alexa device. Search for "Ad Age" under "Skills" in the Alexa app.

What people are talking about today
Preliminary ratings from the Grammy Awards don't look good: Sunday's show was the least-watched broadcast of the event since 2009. The event on CBS averaged 19.8 million viewers, down 24 percent from last year, according to Nielsen fast national data, as Ad Age's Anthony Crupi reports. And it had a 5.9 demo rating, which equates to 7.6 million adults 18 to 49. Crupi writes, "Like pretty much everything else on TV, ratings for CBS's annual musical spectacular of late have been on a gradual downhill trend." Would it have helped if they put Lorde on stage instead of, say, Sting?

Here's Fox News' read on the ratings: It says "viewers were seemingly turned off by the night's political antics which included a cameo from former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton."

Facebook changes, again
In the latest in a series of announcements about Facebook's news feed changes, Mark Zuckerberg says the platform will "show more stories from news sources in your local town or city." He adds: "When I traveled around the country last year, one theme people kept telling me is how much we all have in common if we can get past some of the most divisive national issues." The change will start first in the U.S., with the goal of bringing it to other countries this year.

Facebook seems to be having a crisis of conscious, which probably stems from Russian trolls hijacking its platform to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. And it's been adjusting its purpose, as Zuckerberg puts it, "to make sure Facebook isn't just fun but also good for your well-being and for society." To recap: Facebook also recently said that, one, it will deemphasize news and brand content in general, and two, it will give extra weight to more "trustworthy" publications.

Showing more love for local news is good cause that's hard to argue with. Though some might say it's too little, too late.

More on Facebook: A coalition of health experts has asked Facebook to shut down its ad-free Messenger Kids app, saying it could be detrimental to childhood development, Wired reports.

Microsoft & Marcel
Back in June, Publicis Groupe announced something it called "Marcel," an AI-powered professional assistant program to connect 80,000 employees spread across 130 countries. There have been a LOT of questions about it – especially because the holding company says it's sitting out awards shows for a year to save money for it. Six months later, we're learning a tad more: Publicis will partner with Microsoft to develop it, as Ad Age's Lindsay Stein writes. We'll be able to see it at Viva Technology, the event Publicis co-hosts in Paris in May. Also, Microsoft's CEO says he's "thrilled."

Super Bowl update
The big game is in five days away. Click here for a compilation of all the Super Bowl ads released so far. And here's a little update of what's new:

M&M released its Super Bowl ad created by BBDO New York and starring Danny DeVito as the red M&M. He walks around a city asking people, "Do you want to eat me?" And then he gets hit by a truck. (But don't worry, he seems OK.) Watch it and read more by Ad Age's Jessica Wohl.

Kraft, meanwhile, will pull everything together last-minute. It will crowdsource its spot on game day, with photos and videos of real families celebrating Super Bowl Sunday. People can contribute footage on social media. And as Ad Age's Wohl writes, "entrants do not have to show off bottles of Kraft dressing, bowls of Kraft macaroni and cheese or any of the brand's other products to get their quick dose of TV stardom."

Just briefly:
Bottoms Up:
Keurig Green Mountain will combine with Dr Pepper Snapple Group in an $18.7 billion dollar deal, Bloomberg News reports. The combined company will include Dr Pepper, 7UP, Snapple, A&W, Mott's, Sunkist and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

Passing the baton: Redscout's Colin Chow is being promoted to CEO of the MDC Partners shop. As Ad Age's Lindsay Stein reports, Redscout founder Jonah Disend will take on the role of chairman.

Mobile video: Mobile video ads could get a boost next month with a new effort to measure their viewability better, as Ad Age's George Slefo writes.

Discrimination case: A lawsuit brought by attorney Gloria Allred alleges that "Walmart discriminates against African Americans in California by putting their hair and skincare products behind locked cases," Ad Age's Jack Neff writes.

Faking it: Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper was among many well-known people who reportedly bought fake Twitter followers, according to a New York Times investigation. Now the Sun-Times says it won't publish any of Roeper's work as it investigates.

Leave of absence: The chief content officer of Newsweek Media Group, Dayan Candappa, is taking "an immediate leave of absence" after a report said he faced a sexual harassment claim during a previous job at Reuters, Newsweek reports.

Quote of the day: Why are AB InBev and Hyundai doing ads promoting philanthropy for the Super Bowl? Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University, tells Ad Age's E.J. Schultz: "Our country has all sorts of issues right now and it's very polarizing. And this may be brands responding to that by embracing causes that everybody can rally around."

Creativity of the day: A team of anonymous creatives put together a strange and disturbing case study to submit to awards shows. It's about Russian interference in the U.S. elections, which they say is "the most impactful advertising campaign of the century." And they don't want it to happen again. Read more by Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz, and watch it here.

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