‘Voltswagen’ confirmed as April Fool, Nike’s ‘Satan shoe’ lawsuit has implications for retailers: Wednesday Wake-Up Call

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 Yes, ‘Voltswagen’ was an April Fool

Volkswagen’s hype around renaming itself “Voltswagen” in the U.S.  was nothing more than an elaborate April Fools’ Day joke; but not everyone is finding it hilarious.

Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz (who himself called out the announcement as “suspicious” earlier on Tuesday) reports that the company eventually confirmed in a statement to Ad Age that “the renaming was designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fool’s Day.” VW is expected to provide more details on its prank imminently, but it is already dealing with online backlash, especially from automotive journalists, some of whom who quoted anonymous sources assuring them it was real. (USA Today reporter Nathan Bomey, for example, angrily tweeted: “Dear Volkswagen: You lied to me.”)

Certainly it seems the confusing prank, which didn’t even take place on April 1, could backfire when it comes to the brand’s relationship with the media. Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University, tells Schultz:  “A lot of April Fools’ stunts are clearly April Fools’ stunts and they get positive press and people report on how cute the April Fools’ stunt is,” but “this one seems different.” “It might not be the best move for a company with credibility problems to begin with,” he adds.Better the devil you know

Nike swiftly reacted with a lawsuit after rapper Lil Nas X and Brooklyn-based MSCHF teamed up to sell 666 pairs of “Satan Shoes,”  a collection of customized Nike Air Max 97s with soles containing a “drop of human blood.”  Ad Age’s Adrianne Pasquarelli reports that the legal action could have implications for retailers and in particular the “upcycling” trend. 

In the complaint, filed in the Eastern District Court of New York, Nike cited consumer confusion on social media over its affiliation with the footwear collection, which is part of a promotion for Lil Nas X’s new song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” “Decisions about what products to put the SWOOSH on belong to Nike, not to third parties like MSCHF,” Nike said in the lawsuit.

By protecting its brand, Nike drew a line in the sand that could have lasting repercussions for other retailers, writes Pasquarelli. While brands haven’t tended to take action against upcycling in the past, not wanting to offend their sneaker culture fan base, in this case Nike decided its brand image was worth defending.Twitter’s video safe-zone

Advertisers who find Twitter to be too toxic an environment for their brands are being invited to enter a safe haven. The platform announced on Tuesday it’s creating a new video-safe zone for advertisers, as it continues to look for ways to protect brands from some of the more volatile conversations that can unfold on the site, writes Ad Age’s Garett Sloane. It made the latest brand safety change by designing a new category of video called “light-hearted content,” which only includes what it deems to be wholesome video. 

Twitter said the category catered to advertisers who want to reach their audiences by aligning with “feel-good” content amid the turbulent events of the past year. But the move also comes as social media platforms are putting more emphasis on family-friendly fare, due to looming regulation and concerns over brand safety. Small is beautiful

Calling all “small and mighty” agencies:  Ad Age’s 2021 Small Agency Awards are now open for submissions.  This year, the awards process includes an outside jury of agency peers to evaluate submissions in the following categories: Campaign of the Year: Digital; Campaign of the Year: B-to-B; Campaign of the Year: Pro Bono; Campaign of the Year: Integrated; Campaign of the Year: Experiential; and Campaign of the Year: Media. A panel of Ad Age editors will judge the Agency of the Year and regional honorees.

Submissions close April 27 and entry forms can be found here. Winners will be announced at the virtual Ad Age Small Agency Conference & Awards, Aug. 2 to Aug. 4, tickets for which go on sale soon.Just briefly

Heavy hitter: Research and analytics firm IRI has recruited Kirk Perry, a heavy hitter from Google with deep roots at Procter & Gamble Co. as its new CEO, writes Ad Age’s Jack Neff.  Perry, who’s been president of global client and agency solutions at Google since 2013, is set to arrive in May.

Quick sale: Vice Media Group is acquiring PLTFRMR, the brand consultancy formed last November by former TBWA\Chiat\Day global creative chief Chris Garbutt and former McDonald’s global marketer Colin Mitchell, writes Ad Age’s Ann-Christine Diaz.

Viral cartoon: Two episodes of “SpongeBob SquarePants” have been pulled from Nickelodeon, one because of sensitivity related to the pandemic, reports the New York Times.  The episode, titled “Kwarantined Crab,” centers on a virus story line, where a health inspector who visits the fast-food restaurant and finds a case of the “clam flu.”

Score some fries: Burger King is appealing to basketball fans in Spain by turning a court in video game NBA 2K21 into a “menu” where they can score to win free food items. The harder the shot the bigger the reward; if they shoot and score from the middle of the court, they can get a full menu with fries and soda. Read more about the campaign, by David Madrid, 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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