Lidl kills cartoon characters; Facebook had a revealing day; and Phyllis reads mean tweets for Panera

Lidl removes cartoon mascots from cereal marketing

British grocery chain Lidl is removing cartoon characters from its eight private label cereals—a move to help “encourage healthier choices.”

“We want to help parents across Britain make healthy and informed choices about the food they buy for their children,” said Georgina Hall, the chain’s head of corporate social responsibility. “We know pester power can cause difficult battles on the shop floor and we’re hoping that removing cartoon characters from cereal packaging will alleviate some of the pressure parents are under. This latest move underpins our commitment to making good food accessible for everyone and helping customers lead healthier lives.”

Facebook bans deep fakes, is ‘likely much less fatal than bacon’

Facebook was likely expecting Tuesday’s media coverage to be about its announcement that it would ban deep fake videos. And there was plenty of that. But later in the day, The New York Times reported on an internal posting from Facebook senior executive Andrew Bosworth about the platform’s potential role in the 2020 U.S. election.

In the revealing, nearly 2,500-word long post (which Bosworth later posted in its entirety), he acknowledged that Facebook helped Donald Trump win in 2016, but not because of Russian meddling. “He got elected because he ran the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser. Period,” he wrote. “They just used the tools we had to show the right creative to each person. The use of custom audiences, video, e-commerce, and fresh creative remains the high water mark of digital ad campaigns in my opinion.”

Bosworth said he said not want Trump to win, though he fears could repeat the feat again this year, partly by using Facebook. However, he stressed that he—and the rest of the company—must resist the temptation to “pull any lever at my disposal to avoid the same result.”

He also addressed wider concerns about the harmful effects of social media, which he said has sometimes been compared to nicotine. “[While] Facebook may not be nicotine I think it is probably like sugar. Sugar is delicious and for most of us there is a special place for it in our lives. But like all things it benefits from moderation.” People must take responsibility for how they use the platform he said. “If I want to eat sugar and die an early death that is a valid position. My grandfather took such a stance towards bacon and I admired him for it. And social media is likely much less fatal than bacon.”

Trump, Bloomberg will run Super Bowl ads

And speaking of the upcoming U.S. election, it was reported Wednesday that both Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg—a late entrant to the field of Democratic Presidential candidates—are planning to advertise in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, which takes place one day before the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

According to Politico, the Trump re-election campaign has purchased 60 seconds of time during the year’s most watched TV event, although it’s unclear if it will run a single :60 or two :30 ads. The content of the ad(s) is unclear, although Politico says the emphasis will likely be on improving his approval ratings.

The New York Times also reported that Bloomberg has also purchased 60 seconds of ad time, with a campaign spokesperson saying that the objective is “getting under Trump’s skin.”

“The duelling ads on the year’s biggest night of television are evidence that the two New York billionaires are preparing for a schoolyard brawl on the national airwaves over the coming months,” said the Times.

New ad fraud tools for sale, WSJ reports

A new year brings new stories about the ways people are scamming digital marketers, despite their best efforts to stop ad fraud. The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported on developers selling subscription-style access to tools that evade some of the more advanced fraud detection systems capable of identifying non-human web traffic.

“The tools essentially act like browsers—alternatives to Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer or Apple Inc.’s Safari—that allow for the creation of hundreds of fake personas quickly and cheaply,” reports the WSJ. “Fraudsters, though, can use the software to mimic the online browsing and shopping habits of real people.

“For example, they can send fake personas to visit different websites, click on various links and ads, and leave five-star reviews. Such actions could help boost the popularity of an ad or product, leading to increased clicks and sales.”

Phyllis reads mean tweets for Panera

The now familiar “people read mean tweets”  has been given a twist by Panera Bread. Apparently, when Panera temporarily stopped serving French Onion Soup in the U.S., people took to social media to express their outrage—because that’s what we do.

To announce the soup’s return, Panera cast Phyllis Smith, the actress who played Phyllis Vance (wife of Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration) in beloved U.S. sitcom The Office, to deal with the mean tweets. The older woman being shocked by nasty online behaviour, while kind of familiar now, will still be amusing for a lot of people, and have extra resonance for the many fans of the sitcom.

Volkswagen says g(o\!/o)dbye to the Beetle

Volkswagen has given its iconic Beetle a touching send-off with “The Last Mile,” an animated spot developed by New York agency Johannes Leonardo that references the automobile’s legacy and impact on popular culture.

Set to a version of the Beatles song “Let it Be” recorded by the Chicago area youth choir Pro Musica Youth Chorus, the 90-second spot chronicles the Beetle’s role in the life of a man whose father bought the car when he was a child. The car is shown at key stages of his life before embarking on a farewell journey identified as “the last mile.”

It includes numerous blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pop culture references, including the likenesses of Kevin Bacon (whose Footloose character Ren drove a Beetle) to Andy Warhol, who painted the car as part of his 1985 “Ads” series. There are also nods to the iconic Beetle ad campaigns “Lemon” and “Think Small,” and, of course, the “punch buggy” game beloved by children.

Arguably one of the most famous cars ever produced, the Beetle had its origins in Nazi Germany but would become a symbol of the Hippie era. More than 21 million of the original Beetles were produced between 1938 and 2003, with a redesigned model debuting in 1998.


David Brown