Home Depot and Omnicom shareholders probe misinformation, and brands prepare for Inauguration Day: Tuesday 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. Investors question Home Depot and Omnicom on misinformation

In the wake of the Capitol riot, brands and agencies are facing yet more questions on whether their advertising policies helped promote misinformation. And some come from their own shareholders.

The New York Times reports that shareholders of Home Depot and Omnicom have filed resolutions asking the companies to investigate whether the money they spent on ads may have helped spread hate speech and misinformation. The resolutions, which were filed in November but not made public until yesterday, are coordinated by Open MIC, a nonprofit group that works with shareholders at media and technology companies. In similar language they ask both Home Depot (which advertises heavily on Facebook) and Omnicom to investigate whether their advertising contributes to “the spread of hate speech, disinformation, white supremacist activity, or voter suppression efforts.” 

Other brands could soon face similar questions. NewsGuard, which monitors the web to assess the credibility of publishers, issued a report last week that found ads from 1,668 brands showed up on untrustworthy sites since October. For the latest in how brands are dealing with the political unrest, check our regularly updated blog.Brands grapple with Inauguration Day

As the world holds its breath for Inauguration Day tomorrow, brands are grappling with how to handle the occasion. Ad Age’s Adrianne Pasquarelli and E.J. Schultz write that the inauguration “is especially tricky for brands, which must weigh the risks of running ads during an event that could prove more polarizing than unifying, with millions of Trump supporters still clinging to conspiracy theories about the election results.”

Some brands, including Vistaprint, have delayed campaigns this week. Others, including One Medical, have purposefully scheduled campaigns during broadcasts of the ceremony in order to capture the millions of eyeballs expected to tune in. And networks could still reap the benefits; Fox News Media is apparently seeing ad interest for this year’s inauguration that slightly exceeds what the network saw in 2017.

Whatever happens, it will be a very different inauguration, with the normal parade down Pennsylvania Avenue replaced by what organizers are billing as a “virtual Parade Across America.” (On a random side note: TMZ notes that celebrities in the parade will include TikTok celebrity and star of Ocean Spray ads Doggface, aka Nathan Apodaca.)Ford’s ads promote unity

While some brands grapple with how to handle political unrest ahead of the inauguration, others are responding to the events of Jan. 6. Ford, for example, began running new TV ads this past weekend that stress unity following the Capitol riot.

Automotive News’ Michael Martinez reports that the spots focus on the ability of Americans to come together and create, featuring images of construction workers, nurses, firefighters and other volunteers. While they do not make direct mention of the Jan. 6 riot, they were produced less than a week after the attack by Wieden + Kennedy, using scenes from previous Ford commercials. They will also air during the inauguration.

Separately, Ford announced over the weekend that it will unveil a memorial honoring people who lost their lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort includes illuminating some of its buildings in the Detroit area beginning at 5.30 p.m. today, as well as a lighting around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.Influencers promote COVID testing

As coronavirus cases continue to surge, New York City’s hospital network is turning to influencers to help to get younger Americans to comply with its Test and Trace COVID regime, by posting on TikTok about the benefits of getting tested.

Ad Age’s Ilyse Liffreing reports that seven New York City-based social media influencers are involved in an initiative from NYC Health+Hospitals, which operates all of the 11 public hospitals and more than 70 community clinics in New York City. They include professional ballet dancer Misty Copeland, former Miss USA and “Extra” correspondent Cheslie Kryst, lifestyle and fitness influencer Trevor Bell, pre-med student Gage Gomez and even Maltese dog influencer duo The Doogie Days. The team looked for influencers who were “uniquely New York” and had a strong New York-based following, to act as “trusted messengers” to younger audiences.Just briefly

The Week Ahead: The Inauguration isn’t the only thing happening this week; Netflix and Procter & Gamble have results, and on Thursday, Ad Age hosts a town hall with Asian and AAPI industry leaders discussing how the industry needs to change to make their voices heard. See our calendar roundup here.

Sitting it out: Neither Coke nor Pepsi will air an ad in the Super Bowl this year, reports Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz. Coke revealed that it’s sitting it out, while Pepsi will focus on its halftime sponsorship. Meanwhile, Schultz also writes that LeBron James is parting ways with Coke and will back rival brands from PepsiCo.

Whodunnit? Ashton Kutcher stars in a teaser for Cheetos’ Super Bowl ad this year, but what’s going on in it is a mystery, as he examines some blurry evidence photos that came in the mail together with a Cheetos Crunch Pop Mix bag. Watch here to see if you can work it out, and don’t forget to catch up with Creativity’s Top 5 ideas from last week, where the Creativity team also discusses what might be going on. 

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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