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Friday Wake-Up Call: Facebook Axes a Failed News Feed Experiment. And Twitter Asks For Help

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Credit: iStock/ljubaphoto

Welcome to Ad Age's Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital-related news. You can get an audio version of this briefing on your Alexa device. Search for "Ad Age" under "Skills" in the Alexa app.

What people are talking about today
Is there "turmoil on Madison Avenue" because of changes afoot in the marketing industry? That's how The Wall Street Journal describes the state of affairs in a headline wrapping up all of yesterday's unsettling advertising news. First, weak financial results from WPP sent the stock plummeting; the company says net sales were down last year, and it predicts this year won't bring any growth. Later in the day, when Procter & Gamble's chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, spoke at the Association of National Advertisers conference in Orlando, it was a reminder of the shifts in the marketing industry that are hurting players like WPP. As Ad Age's Jack Neff writes, P&G has been streamlining its spending and has pledged to cut $1.2 billion in agency and production fees over five years. Pritchard also said the company has cut spending on big digital players by 20 to 50 percent – even though they made progress on his demands a year ago that they cut out fraud and ensure brand safety.
Also: In case you missed it amid all the other news yesterday, WPP released its gender pay gap report for the UK market; the median gap between men and women is 14.6 percent, which WPP says is better than the national average of 18.4 percent. But in some specific WPP agencies it's much worse (like at J. Walter Thompson, with 44.7 percent.)

Facebook says it's ending an experiment it tried in six countries starting in October. To try to prioritize content from friends and family, it shunted content from brands, businesses and publishers into a second feed called "Explore." But it didn't work. "You gave us our answer: People don't want two separate feeds," Adam Mosseri, Facebook's news feed head, said in a post. "In surveys, people told us they were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing, and having two separate feeds didn't actually help them connect more with friends and family." Facebook says its other recent big changes to the news feed are a better way to prioritize posts from friends. The test in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Serbia was widely panned and actually "magnified fake news" in those countries, as The New York Times says, based on feedback from independent news outlets from those countries. The Guardian says the test was described as "Orwellian."
Also: Recode points out that Snapchat's redesign does something similar to what Facebook tried: "Can Snapchat make two feeds work when Facebook couldn't?"

The big tech giants are all about soul-searching right now. Yesterday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted a long Twitter thread that asked experts for help to gauge how healthy/toxic it is. At times, he spoke bluntly about what ails Twitter:

You can check out Twitter's request for proposals here.

Delta just got punished for ending its discounts for NRA members, a decision it made after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people. As The Washington Post writes, lawmakers in Georgia made good on a threat from the Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Unless Delta backed down, he had promised to kill a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel that benefitted Delta, which is based in Atlanta and is one of Georgia's biggest employers. Since then, New York, Virginia and Birmingham, Alabama have all been trying to lure Delta by showing it some love.

More on marketers and guns: Like Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods, Kroger now says it won't let shoppers under 21 buy guns, as Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli writes.

Just briefly:
ICYM: The list of Ad Age's Creativity Awards finalists is out, here.

Actually: A few days ago it looked like this deal was off, but an investor group led by Maria Contreras-Sweet now says it will buy most of the assets of The Weinstein Co. film studio, The New York Times says. Meanwhile, a golden statue of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in a bathrobe has popped up in Hollywood ahead of the Oscars. The Hollywood Reporter writes: "The piece was intentionally crafted to allow passers-by to sit beside Weinstein and take photos with him."

It's over: "The tech platform Oath has canceled a show starring several Instagram stars whose mother is famous conspiracy theorist and Islamophobe Pamela Geller," The Daily Beast reports.

Another Google lawsuit: A recruiter at Google says he was fired because he didn't agree with alleged pressure to bypass white and Asian male candidates to boost hiring of blacks, Hispanics and women, Bloomberg News reports.

Naked Facebook ads: The New York Times delves into the question of whether Facebook cracks down harder on nakedness in ads when the image shows a woman. The headline: "Facebook Lets Ads Bare a Man's Chest. A Woman's Back Is Another Matter."

Farewell: Chipotle is getting out of the burger business for now, as Ad Age's Jessica Wohl writes. It's closing its one burger restaurant, called Tasty Made, in Lancaster, Ohio.

Dispatch from Barcelona: Ad Age editor Brian Braiker runs down four takeaways from the Mobile World Congress (including that VR still has a way to go, as does robotics.)

Creativity pick of the day: March 6 is World Oreo Day, and Adidas is dropping Oreo-colored shoes that day. Coincidence? Check the sneakers out here, and read more by Ad Age's Ann-Christine Diaz.

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