WPP’s dismal diversity data, and delivery services eye possible new labor laws: Friday 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.Meet the new WPP, same as the old WPP

WPP’s first U.S. workforce diversity report shows little progress in the last few years. Nearly seven in 10 of its U.S. employees are white, a figure that jumps to more than 80% at the management level. “For all staff roles, Black or African American employees rose from 6.2% in 2018 to 6.4% in 2019. For senior and executive-level managers, Asian employees rose from 5.7% in 2018 to 6.6% in 2019,” writes Ad Age’s Mike Juang.

The holding company said it still has “a huge amount of work to do,” the same language CEO Mark Read used in a staff memo sent last summer. “We have a huge amount of work to do to,” he wrote at the time, during protests for racial justice and amid pressure from industry activists.

WPP says it will continue to release diversity numbers annually, so it should be easier to track any advancements. But while it is adding bonuses for hitting DE&I goals, and recruiting at HBCUs, it takes more than top-down policy implementations to change a company’s culture.The gig is up

Last fall, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash won a huge victory in California with the passage of Proposition 22, which enshrined into law their business model of hiring drivers as independent contractors who needn’t be provided health coverage or other benefits.

But with the advent of a new presidential administration, that might change at the federal level. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Reuters that gig workers should be classified as employees, sending shares of the rideshare and delivery services tumbling on Thursday.

All three companies have yet to turn a profit, and a Department of Labor that is aggressive in protecting the rights of workers would be an expensive turn of events for them. Whatever happens, the public’s increased reliance on gig workers, many of whom have been deemed essential during the pandemic, isn’t going away.Outage outrage

Who says advertising doesn’t work? The fried chicken wars waged by fast food chains have caused a run on poultry in the U.S. KFC is having trouble keeping up with the demand for its chicken sandwich, and Bojangles has been fielding tweets from upset customers after a chicken tender outage.

The limiting factor, like with many commodities, is labor. Slaughterhouses and chicken processing plants have been hit hard by the coronavirus, so poultry producers are having a tough time hiring quickly enough to meet demand. In the meantime, Beyond Meat is capitalizing on the shortage and will introduce a plant-based chicken over the summer.The Noid, employed

This week saw the return of Domino’s pizza-hating nemesis, the Noid, now rendered in full CGI, rather than good old-fashioned Claymation. A new Ad Age-Harris Poll finds that most viewers don’t remember him, but there’s plenty of nostalgia for the brand mascots of old.

“Other mascots with higher recognition included Planters’ Mr. Peanut (89%) and McDonald’s Hamburglar (84%),” writes Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl. “Mr. Peanut has been prominently featured in that brand’s marketing in recent years, while the Golden Arches hasn’t relied on the Hamburglar or its other characters for quite some time.”

Perhaps most interesting, respondents wanted to see the return of mascots that haven’t actually been retired, like Tony the Tiger and the Kool-Aid Man. Oh yeah, they’re great!Just briefly

Drink up: California is taking action against Nestlé for diverting too much water from public waterways to bottle for brands including Poland Spring and Arrowhead, the New York Times reports. The state is dealing with a drought, which makes letting a private company siphon a valuable natural resource a hard sell. It’s the latest clash between companies with rights to public land, like logging and oil-drilling operations, and the environmentalists and—increasingly—government officials trying to rein them in.

Butt out: In 2009, the Obama administration banned flavored cigarettes in a bid to cut youth smoking. Now the Biden administration is adding menthol to the list, citing the long history of targeting communities of color by manufacturers of menthol cigarettes.

Lend an ear: Martin Sorrell is out nearly $280,000 in stock awards that his former company WPP is withholding as punishment for what it says was “disclosure of confidential information” to the press. Sorrell denies the accusation, and there’s no word on what info might have been leaked, but if any current or former WPP employees have anything to get off their chest, Ad Age is here to listen.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. 

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