Brands get real on bodily functions and Shaquille O’Neal opens diversity-led agency: Wednesday Wake-Up Call

Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. If you’re reading this online or in a forwarded email, here’s the link to sign up for our Wake-Up Call newsletters. Getting real on bodily functions

From Frida Mom’s visceral depiction of breastfeeding in its Golden Globes spot, to an ad by Phillips that talks frankly about having “a good poop,” we’ve seen a slew of recent ads getting real about bodily functions. Ad Age’s Jack Neff has taken a deep dive into this trend, looking at why advertisers are now telling it like it is. 

As Neff writes: “Marketers are embracing blood or blood-like representations in sanitary protection products, nursing moms’ chafed and clogged nipples, Charmin bears’ itchy bottoms or cervical mucus.” The reasons include younger targets for mainstream brands being less likely to be offended, as well as big brands  competing with edgier challenger and direct-to-consumer brands.

Ad Age ran a Harris poll to see what consumers think and the results are revealing; men, even over 65, are more comfortable than women seeing either partially or fully uncovered breasts in ads about breast feeding. Overall, more people disagreed with sanitary product advertisers using red rather than blue fluid to simulate blood. And yes, people think “poop” is OK in a commercial; 61% believe advertisers should be able to say it in ads for relevant products.Shaq’s diverse new venture

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal is expanding his business empire with new Atlanta-based agency Majority, partnering with creative vet Omid Farhang, most recently chief creative officer of McCann’s Momentum Worldwide.

But as Ad Age’s Ann-Christine Diaz reports, Shaq’s name isn’t the only big draw—the agency (whose clients already include on-demand delivery app goPuff) is also putting diversity at the forefront of its business model. Its name reflects that at least 75% of its team is BIPOC, women or LGBTQ+.

“We strive to make the minority the majority, not just for a more equitable world, but because we actually believe that diversity is a competitive advantage and leads to more disruptive creativity,” says Farhang, the son of Iranian immigrants whose previous work included turning a Chicago church into a training center for deprived kids for Nike.SXSW channels ‘Animal Crossing’

SXSW revealed its virtual Austin venue on Tuesday ahead of its conference starting March 16, and its vibe might seem vaguely familiar to those who have indulged in a popular game during the pandemic. “The virtual Austin looks a little like “Animal Crossing,” the expansive online game world,” writes Ad Age’s Garett Sloane.

The online world, created by Paris-based Vroom and other digital artists, recreates Austin landmarks like The Paramount Theatre, Mohawk, the Contemporary Austin, Empire Control Room & Garage and other downtown venues visitors typically see walking along Congress Avenue. Visitors can participate in this world with a VRChat account, where they get to build an avatar. It’s all designed so that you can “meet with people, hang out with friends and really have those serendipitous run-ins that might happen at any SXSW,”  according to Blake Kammerdiener, SXSW’s XR and film programmer.IPG highlights Black media

IPG Mediabrands will look to shift dollars to Black-owned and-focused media businesses with a week-long “Equity Upfront event” that highlights these companies, writes Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi.

Brands such as Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios, BET Network, Essence Communications and Urban One, which historically have not usually brought in the same share of ad dollars as other media groups, will get the chance to make pitches to Mediabrands clients such as American Express, BMW, CVS Health/Aetna, Johnson & Johnson and others as the industry plans upfront deals for the new fall season.From ‘Jolene’ to ‘vaccine’

The viral video of the day goes to Dolly Parton, who got vaccinated yesterday with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine she helped fund. It was possibly a better advertisement for the vaccine than anything Moderna could have dreamed up; as the New York Times reports, she posted a video to Twitter, singing a version of “Jolene” in which the word is replaced by “vaccine.”

“I know I’m trying to be funny now, but I’m dead serious about the vaccine,” she comments. “I think we all want to get back to normal — whatever that is — and that would be a great shot in the arm, wouldn’t it?”

 Just briefly

Lyft gets a lift: Lyft forecast a loss of $135 million for the first quarter of 2021 on an adjusted basis. Bloomberg News reports that loss was smaller than expected and Lyft stock was up about 3.7% in after-hours trading on Tuesday. The company also said that the week of  Feb. 28 was its best in terms of number of rides since the start of the pandemic.

Gale is milking it: The Milk Processor Education Program, known for its “Got Milk?” slogan, has chosen MDC’s Gale as its new lead agency following a review, reports Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl.

Join us on March 23 for the Ad Age Next: Food & Beverage virtual conference, where industry leaders will share lessons from the past year and offer perspectives on what happens next. Register here.

Apple’s hometown glory: Apple is following its “Hometown” photography project for Black History Month with a documentary-style film, in which it delves deeper into the personal stories of the Black photographers whose work it has used on its Instagram handle.  The whole spot was filmed on an iPhone 12 by Smuggler’s Phillip Youmans for TBWA/Media Arts Lab; watch over at Creativity. 

That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call, thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter:@adage. From CMO Strategy to the Ad Age Datacenter Weekly, we’ve got newsletters galore. See them all here. 

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