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Some Halloween costumes are as inevitable as 2019’s headlines

Appropriating brands and pop cultural icons as Halloween-costume inspiration is not all sizzle and skin (wait for it). And some are as inevitable as 2019’s headlines.


Want to summon your inner homicidal protagonist? How about a joker costume, which comes in iterations for every age? Or a nightmare clown, channeling the “It” movie version of your choice?

Want to dress in slimming, redacted black? Slip on the Mueller report—“Harm to ongoing matter” printed in white letters on black clothing.

And no American Halloween would be complete without the Big Guy—the president. Perhaps the most fetching version is the Adult Baby Prez from 

Of course brands get into the act, too.

Kentucky Fried Chicken and Spirit Halloween unveiled the first Colonel Harland Sanders costume on Sept. 9, the 129th anniversary of the founder’s birth. Taco Bell released a line of dresses and tunics resembling burritos and hot sauce packets. An adult Sasquatch costume comes with the Jack Links seal of approval. 

“We know our fans can be (literally) anything for Halloween, so we don't take it lightly when they either make their own or buy one of ours,” says Jennifer Arnoldt, Taco Bell's senior director of retail engagement and experience.

“Think of it as soft marketing,” says Marty Brochstein, senior VP of industry relations and information for the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association. When brands become part of a cultural conversation, he says, it’s a benefit beyond revenue.
“If people are dressing up as a chicken sandwich, it’ll create some hype for the brand,” says Mark Mathews, VP of research development and industry analysis for the National Retail Federation.

Although Beyond Meat played no role in the development of a beyond burger costume, “we love seeing fans so excited about our products," a Beyond Meat spokesperson tells Delish. 

Excited is precisely what Yandy—the year-round home of body shapers, bustiers and leather lingerie—is aiming for with its skin-baring, knock-off costumes, including that body-hugging “beyond burger” ensemble (“Be the yummiest artificial patty between buns”) and a revealing “sexy mother of dragons,” (not recommended if winter is coming.)

Not even Mr. Rogers is safe from Yandy’s stripped-down interpretation (for women) of America’s nicest neighbor: a red top with a V-neckline, white detachable collar and high-waisted gray shorts. There goes the neighborhood.

If you want to party as popular White Claw Hard Cider, you can do so as a can of your favorite flavor. 

Stranger Things fans can embrace their inner Scoops Ahoy in a Steve Harrington costume—perfect for sneaking friends into the movies and fighting life-threatening monsters. 

Social media—cited by 35 percent of respondents in a National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics—is the No. 1 source of Halloween costume ideas, followed by 28 percent who browse in stores and 20 percent who are inspired by family and friends. Among sites, Pinterest was named by 18 percent of respondents, followed by YouTube (14 percent) and Instagram (7 percent.) 

Other results from the NRF survey:

Consumers plan to spend $3.2 billion on costumes, $2.7 billion on decorations, $2.6 billion on candy and $390 million on greeting cards.

Almost 70 percent of respondents plan to hand out candy, 49 percent plan to decorate their home or yard, 47 percent will dress in costume and 44 percent will carve a pumpkin.

For children, the most popular 2019 costumes are princess, superhero and Spiderman. For adults they are witch, vampire and superhero.

And hold onto your cats: 29 million people plan to dress their pets in costume for Halloween.

Under Armour and Virgin Galactic unveil spacesuits

There was a real intergalactic vibe in Westchester, New York on Wednesday morning for the official unveiling of Under Armour’s new spacesuits, made to clothe tourists traveling to space on a Virgin Galactic flight. The marketers first announced their collaboration on the suits earlier this year. Sir Richard Branson, Virgin’s founder, noted that the products have been in design for more than two years.

At the event, which was held at an indoor skydiving arena, sky dancers showcased the flexibility of the blue spacesuits by dancing to music that included Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Branson, wearing his own personalized suit, was in attendance.

The suit systems for travelers are made up of a base layer, spacesuit, footwear, training suit and a limited-edition jacket. The kits also have technical elements like a fabric that manages temperature, as well as personalization elements like an inside pocket where travelers can put pictures of their loved ones and a tab for each person’s mission statement about why he or she is going to space. In addition, spacesuits have a spot for a name badge and area to place country flags.

Virgin Galactic already has around 600 consumers signed up for the space voyages, which will begin next year. It costs roughly $250,000 per person, according to a spokeswoman.

Kevin Plank, CEO of Baltimore, Maryland-based Under Armour, noted that Under Armour innovations like its Hovr gravity-eliminating technology, has been incorporated into the uniforms, which are more pliable than traditional spacesuits “that are canvas and stiff to wear,” he noted. The suits utilize eight Under Armour technologies. “For the consumer, this same innovation in a space suit is available 100 yards that way in Dick’s Sporting Goods,” Plank said, gesturing to a nearby Dick’s store.

“It’s a landmark moment—this is a big deal for our brand to be involved,” Plank said, noting that the space collaboration is a “powerful tool for the brand.”

Under Armour, which has struggled with sales momentum in recent years, could use the lift. In its recent second quarter, the retailer reported net revenue that was essentially flat to a year-earlier at $1.2 billion, along with a 3 percent sales decline in North America. The brand said it expects 2019 sales to decline slightly.

On Wednesday, executives spoke about how space travelers could wear both the suits and accompanying jackets on earth as well as in space. Stephen Attenborourgh, commercial director of Virgin Galactic, said the brands plan to create versions of the suits that non-space traveling consumers can buy on their own. Plank noted that Virgin Galactic shirts are currently available for purchase on Under Armour’s website.

Arnold Worldwide CEO Kiran Smith exits suddenly

Arnold Worldwide CEO Kiran Smith has suddenly departed the agency, a spokeswoman for its parent company Havas North America confirmed to Ad Age.

“Kiran brought many good insights to Arnold and we thank her for her contributions," Paul Marobella, chairman and CEO of Havas Creative North America, said in a statement. "We wish her much success as she moves forward in the next chapter of her career."

The Havas spokeswoman said Smith's last day was on Tuesday, but she declined to provide any additional information such as why she left or if Arnold has a succession plan in place. Smith did not immediately return a request for comment.

Smith was hired as CEO only 18 months ago. She replaced Pam Hamlin, who left the agency last year. The search for Hamlin's replacement was conducted by MediaLink. At the time, Hamlin said she wanted to explore "what's next" for her, and that it was the right time for new leadership to take over. According to Hamlin's LinkedIn page, she freelanced as a consultant after Arnold and now sits on the board of directors at Cambridge Trust Co.

Prior to joining Arnold, Smith served three years as chief marketing officer at Brookstone and had no previous experience at an ad agency. Before Brookstone, she was VP of marketing for Stride Rite. Her other past stints include marketing roles at grocery chains SuperValu and Shaw's Supermarket as well as consulting positions at Alliance Consulting Group and Accenture.

At the time of her appointment as CEO, Smith said she knew she was not the conventional choice, having no background leading an agency, but she saw that as an advantage. "I'm coming in with fresh eyes," Smith had said.

For this data-driven marketer, the measurement is the message

The often-used adage, “if you can’t measure it, don’t do it” seems ludicrous. How could a b-to-b brand possibly measure every inflection point during a year-long sales cycle involving a buying committee of more than 10 members? What about emotional intangibles like “I just trust them more” or “I just didn’t like that sales guy?” For the data-driven marketer, these questions are simply immaterial, so long as they can quantify the primary impact of their efforts. 

Case in point: Rebecca Stone, VP of Marketing at LiveRamp, a San Francisco-based SaaS company that offers an identity resolution platform. During her five years at LiveRamp, she has helped grow revenue from $20 million to more than $300 million, carefully building a marketing engine that now drives about 60 percent of the sales pipeline. With an enormous tech stack that helps increase event attendance, post-event meetings and follow-up activities, Stone is striving for a 98 percent attribution model, one that would pretty much end any debate about marketing measurement. 

Events are a big part of your marketing. Can you give an overview?
We have a pretty extensive events program. We have two tentpole “Ramp Up” events. One in San Francisco is our biggest (about 3,500 people) and another big one in New York (about 1,500 people). Then we have a series of about 20 roadshows we call "Ramp Up on the Road" that go to various cities throughout the United States and the world. 

Talk a bit about how you get attendees to these events.
For our most recent Ramp Up, which was San Francisco, we had a target list of attendees who had gone in the past but had not registered for this year's event. We really wanted to target them. That list wasn't big enough, so we did a lookalike campaign targeting people who were our ideal prospects and targets. With that we added 50 to 100,000 [registrants] to our list. Targeting the combined list via digital ads, we were able get about a 30 percent lift in registrations.

After the events, how did you follow up with those people?
One of the great things is that the sales development team reports to me. They're responsible for driving registrations and driving follow-ups from both attendees and registrations who are no-shows. What they found was that they were able to book meetings with attendees and even people who didn't register or didn't attend. And it was really from keeping our name top of mind, so that when a sales development rep was sending an e-mail to them or giving them a call, it felt warmer and more recognizable. That tone is hugely important.

How long is your buying cycle?
We have tracked that, from very first touchpoint to the first buy, to be anywhere from 18 to 24 months. It is very long. There are a lot of people involved in the buying decision, and so there are a lot of touchpoints that we have to get through before a purchase is made. There is a lot of education at the start, in the awareness stage about what we do, how we do it, how we can make your marketing better, and then moving through to why is this the right way to do it. In that first phase, we almost don't talk about LiveRamp as much—it's much more about pain points that the customer has, and things that we're doing that other marketers aren’t doing to address similar pain points. 

Your CEO gave you the mandate to be as technically advanced as you could be. How big is your tech stack and how many people does it take to run it?
It’s quite big. Probably about 30 or 40 different technologies. And it's segmented—the core is Marketo and Salesforce. And then we have a digital tech stack. We have a measurement tech stack. You also have to remember I have the sales development reps under me. There's a big tech component to supporting that sales dev team. As far as running the stack, we have three core marketing ops team members. So, not too many, I think we could probably use one or two more eventually, but we also have a sales team that sits outside of our team and supports some of the sales development components of that tech stack. We also have two to three people who are day-to-day users, are Marketo certified and who are certified in a couple of our other programs. 

What are your key metrics?
Our core metric, the No. 1 that we track is "pipeline created." So, in a quarter, what is that pipeline that has been created? Revenue is too late, but we know what the flow looks like to get to revenue. We have a number that says “Hey, we have to close about 30 to 40 percent of our open pipeline. We need to get "x" number in our pipeline to be able to know 3 to 6 months down the road what we're going to get. And as far as what percentage of those opportunities are created by marketing, I’d say we generate about 60 percent of the overall pipeline. I'm actually going through that exercise of convincing our CFO about why they should continue to invest heavily in marketing, and that number is big there. 

So, there’s a big commitment to data tracking?
Absolutely. What's been amazing is that in the last 18 months we’ve invested in a data lake via Looker. We have built our own in-house data lake, and we're using Tableau as our visualization. We have an analyst who has been on full time for about six to nine months, and he has built some really cool models for how a dollar of marketing investment results in a dollar of revenue, and a dollar pipeline. We don’t know exactly how accurate it is, but he is convinced that it's 98 percent, and he’s had that vetted by a couple external analytics people. That metric is sort of the Holy Grail of marketing attribution.

Do you have a few dos and a don’t in this area of metrics and measurement?
Sure. For starters, you have to be extremely focused on process and data, and you have to get that focus from everybody in the organization. You have to understand how your data is flowing. Where are the gaps? Insist that everybody, from the marketing assistant to the top salesperson, is following the process to record and keep all of the data. One don’t is: Don’t get too big of an appetite for what you can accomplish, because it is a very long journey. Set your sights toward a big thing. Figure out the small steps that you can take to get there. Don't try to eat the elephant in one bite. And then the third thing is: Don't get discouraged by the fact that nobody believes you. Keep at it, and be able to talk in numbers, and have those conversations with the finance side and with your sales organization and be really, really rigorous so that eventually, they too trust the data. 

LeBron James is now LeBurn James

As part of Ad Age’s continuing media-about-media coverage, a quick look at an NBA superstar’s current geopolitical PR crisis: 

LeBron James has stepped in it—and the nation’s leading tabloid newspapers are in agreement about his punishment (part of it, anyway): He shall now be known as LeBurn James, per this morning’s front pages of the New York Post and Daily News (above). As the Post’s Yaron Steinbuch reports in a story headlined “Hong Kong protesters slam LeBron James for comments about China, free speech,”

Furious Hong Kong protesters burned and stomped on LeBron James basketball jerseys on Tuesday as the Lakers superstar faced mounting outrage over his comments on their pro-democracy demonstrations. Activists vented their fury by chanting profane slogans and holding up signs supporting Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whom James on Monday called “misinformed or not really educated” for a since-deleted tweet of a meme that said “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

Leonard Greene of the News, in a story headlined “LeBron shoots air ball in China: Says free speech can have ‘negative’ consequences,” has more details about what James said:

“Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James said in China, where his Los Angeles Lakers were playing an exhibition game. “But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, when you only think about yourself.” Then James double-dribbled, doubling down on his box out of the Bill of Rights.

“So many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do. Even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, it can be a lot of negative that comes with it.”

Oh dear.

Elsewhere among the national print media, the middle-of-the-road USA Today refrains from giving James a new nickname, but sports columnist Dan Wolken, in a post headlined “Opinion: LeBron James undermines values he’s espoused in most disgraceful moment of career,” arguably offers an even harsher condemnation, writing, 

The thing is, LeBron, we’ve come to expect more of you. You’re obviously an intelligent person, a compassionate person and a socially conscious person. At this point in your life and career, it’s part of your brand. But to present that face to an American audience while essentially admitting that all you care about when it comes to the rest of the world is cashing those big checks—well, let’s just say it doesn’t look very good on you.

Keep reading here.

All the latest production moves, hires and partnerships: October 16, 2019

Park Pictures has signed director Jaci Judelson for U.S. commercial and worldwide representation.  Judelson's Gatorade “Sisters in Sweat” spot starring Serena Williams won a Cannes Lion, two Clios and a One Show award in 2018. She has also directed spots and branded films for the likes of T-Mobile, Visa, C Spire, Staples and Avon and worked on content film collaborations with BMW, Ralph Lauren, H&M, French Vogue and GQ Magazine along with AIDS PSAs. She is also known for various docuseries including “Undressed: Fashion in the Twentieth Century” (1998).

Josh Mandel has joined The Mill’s studio in Los Angeles as managing director/president. Mandel brings two decades of experience including opening R/GA L.A. to strategically service Beats by Dre. Prior to that, he held leadership roles in both strategy and marketing at 72&Sunny, 180 Amsterdam, Wieden & Kennedy and Nike. He also built and ran the internal creative studio of hip hop pioneer All Def. 

U.K. production company Rogue has hired Kate Taylor, previously managing director of Skunk London, as its new managing director/ executive producer. Taking over from Rogue co-founder David van der Gaag, she will be working alongside executive producer and head of production James Howland, who joined Rogue in 2001. Taylor worked at Rattling Stick, Biscuit and RSA prior to setting up Skunk London. 

Sweetshop has restructured its operations in London, promoting Justin Edmund-White, previously head of production and Morgan Whitlock, formerly head of sales and marketing, to executive producers of Sweetshop U.K. & Europe. Edmund-White and Whitlock have been with Sweetshop for seven and eight years each respectively.

Logan & Sons has signed Los Angeles-based filmmaker and writer Eva Doležalová to its roster of directors. Doležalová’s commercial work includes campaigns for French scarf maker Les Inconnus and French luxury bag brand Polène. Her short film “Carte Blanche” won the Audience Award at the 2019 Mammoth Film Festival.

Toronto production company Someplace Nice has added U.K. director Barney Cokeliss to its roster for Canadian representation. His work includes the 2013 Macmillan Cancer Support “Falling” and an ongoing 45-spot campaign for CIC Bank. His short film work includes “The Foundling,” commissioned by Philips, which tells the tale of an boy’s life in the circus, as well as “Night Dancing” which premiered at TIFF. The latter is currently completing a festival run in which it has won over 10 international awards.

Bicoastal production company Tomorrow has appointed Brynne Copping as head of production and Rob Baunoch as chief financial officer. Copping has held production roles at companies including Uber Content and Humble and most recently worked as a bidding producer at Smuggler. Baunoch has been involved in producing and consulting for film, television, media, and theater.

Robert Miller, a composer of advertising, motion picture, TV, ballet and concert music, is opening music and sound design company, RNDM ORDR, with studios located in New York City, Santa Monica, Chicago, London, Hamburg and Berlin. Guin Frehling takes the role of executive producer, Kate Gibson is the company’s NYC producer and Rani Vaz is executive creative advisor. The company combines the talents of ScreenSound Alliance, Stimmüng, Henry Boy, Supreme Music and Machine Head founder Stephen Dewey. It also features recording artist Cosmo Sheldrake, film composer Samuel Sim, record producer, engineer and composer Marc McClusky and Empire composer Carlos Villalobos.

Nice Shoes has hired colorist Yulia Bulashenko to its Toronto location. She brings over seven years of experience as a freelance colorist, working across on projects with clients such as Nike, Volkswagen, MTV, Toyota, Diesel, Uniqlo, Uber, Adidas and Zara. Notable projects include Sia and Diplo’s (LSD) music video for “Audio,” and “Sound and Vision,” a tribute to the late singer David Bowie directed by Canada for whom she has been a colorist of choice for the past five years.

New York and Boston post-production shop Wax has promoted Drew Balke to editor. In his five years with Wax, Balke has worked on projects for Wrangler, Under Armour, Peloton Tread and Hennessy. 

Arsenal Creative has added commercial color services to its roster of existing client offerings, naming Derek Hansen as its new colorist. Hansen had been a colorist with The Mill since 2015.


Five successful strategies for launching something new

Whether you’re introducing a new fragrance for men, unveiling the latest model in your automotive line or promoting the premiere of a blockbuster film, how you launch to the public makes a huge difference in how successful these products, services or brand messages ultimately become.

Done well, launches can stimulate interest, generate buzz and boost sales. When executed poorly, however, they can tarnish a brand’s reputation.

How important is launch strategy? Twitter partnered with Bain & Company to find out. The findings show that making the right kind of splash is critical to the long-term success of a product, service or message.  A successful launch is especially important in a world where hundreds of new products are introduced each day. According to Bain, the number of launches increased an average of 27 percent per company in 2018 over the prior year; the food and beverage industry alone introduced an average of 55 new products each day.

At the same time, this research found the window of opportunity for launches to succeed is rapidly shrinking. Items that don’t prove their value through robust initial sales are pulled from shelves, new services lose momentum and brand messages disappear more quickly than ever.

Despite these dramatic changes in the market, more than half of the companies Bain surveyed haven’t changed their launch tactics much over the past two decades—while those that have deployed a sophisticated approach to launches are reaping the rewards. In our survey, brands that used the best practices had revenue growth rates up to two times higher than those that didn’t consistently use those tactics.

In the survey earlier this year, Twitter and Bain set out to determine the factors that go into a successful launch. Bain interviewed more than 650 senior marketing executives from leading U.S. brands and identified the key tactics of launch leaders—the top 15 percent of brands surveyed that reported successful launches along with growth in revenue and market share over the last year.

From this research, five strategies were identified that separated the launch leaders from the rest of the pack and that had the greatest impact on successful launches:

1. Learn before you launch.

While many marketers still rely on their gut instincts, launch leaders identify and understand their target audience before the big reveal. These leaders are 2.4 times more likely to employ social listening on platforms such as Twitter before launching; as a result, they are more than twice as likely to understand what resonates with their audiences.

2. Own your voice.

Launch leaders are more than twice as likely to express a distinct point of view during a launch and create emotional connections with their audiences. This helps them stand out from more cautious competitors. But authenticity is important. Social listening can play a key role in crafting a message that looks and feels real.

3. Influence is more important than reach.

Launch leaders enable their biggest advocates to spread the word about their new offerings. They know the power of sharing resonant messages with the people most likely to extend their content reach. Leaders also know the value of viral content, and that’s why they’re 2.4 times more likely to create shareable collateral, which helps ensure the launch’s success.

4. Go big on the reveal.

Launches are no time to be timid. The most successful product, service or brand message introductions leverage multiple channels simultaneously and invest more heavily early in the launch, up to and including day one. Launch leaders are nearly twice as likely to launch on three or more channels at once, and the most successful use an average of six—including digital social media such as Twitter, display ads and paid search, and traditional print, direct mail and public relations campaigns.

5. Prepare to pivot.

Very few things in life go according to plan, and launches can be especially unpredictable. That’s why launch leaders are nearly three times more likely to keep a close eye on every channel during a launch and make adjustments to their strategy on the fly. But making that happen requires having the right talent—launch leaders are 2.5 times more likely to have analytics staff on hand and to coordinate operations across marketing teams.


In April 2019, Bain interviewed more than 650 U.S. marketers and CMOs across companies varying in size from $10 million in revenue up to multiple billions. It then used the data to identify the “leaders”—marketers with a pattern of successful launches as well as revenue and share gains over the past year. The broader sample set includes both large and small companies, with many Fortune 500 and 100 organizations represented across industries. The leader methodology allows Bain to not only see how all companies are trending, but also to isolate the behaviors of companies that are winning through market share or revenue gains. This methodology reveals both the strategies leaders are using as well as the tactics that are the largest differentiators for a given capability.


The article Five successful strategies for launching something new first appeared on Twitter.

The 3 keys to really knowing your customers

Marketers tend to live and die by market research. How well you know your marketplace, competition and customer is often the foundation of a great marketing strategy. It’s not too hard to know your market, and thanks to content marketing, it’s easy to see everything your competition is doing. It’s the last one -- knowing your customer -- where our traditional methods of market research are failing us. 

They are out of context, lagging and do not provide the tactical guidance modern marketers require. Brands that know their customers best win, and gaining that knowledge starts with a new type of customer research. 

Knowing your customer’s intention, disposition and action 

Marketing journeys are not a new concept, yet many brands completely miss the ball when it comes to creating them. Why? Because they craft their customers' journeys without talking to their customers. Along with the inherent problem of not talking to customers is the fact that brands just don’t know what to ask.

To really know your customer, you need to first understand the three key things that happen during their buying journey: their intention, disposition and action. This will enable you to create the right experience along the journey. For example, there is a lot of anxiety with some purchases. If you know what is causing that anxiety and when, you can adjust experiences in those moments to help alleviate it. 

Here are some basic things to keep in mind as you do this research: 

• It is not an interrogation. Let the customer guide the conversation. 

• It is best if you don’t mention your product, but rather talk about the category. 

• Remember that the journey is a combination of stages, so you need to know these answers for each stage (ideation, awareness, consideration, purchase), not the journey as a whole. 

Tracking customers across their journey

The next way to really know your customers is to make sure you have the ability to track each person across their journey. Tools such as web behavior tracking allow brands to see each person and what they are looking at and engaging with. This data can then be added to their record and used to create new offers or experiences in real time. 

While this may seem intrusive, Accenture found that 83 percent of customers are happy to let you track them as long as you are using that data to create better experiences for them. This type of personal tracking will require you to add new technology to your marketing stack, but most automation tools and website optimization tools provide you with this function out of the box. The key is to make sure the tool connects to others so the data becomes actionable across your full marketing ecosystem. 

Identifying personal preferences with chatbots

Beyond tracking is asking. By asking your customers for preferences and specific information, you'll gain data tracking can not surmise. This highly personal data is willingly given and opens up the doors to even greater personalization. Ask customers which types of communication they prefer, on what topics and how often, plus things like their job title and company size. While asking questions like these isn’t new, there are new ways to do it.

The old method of getting to know customers and their preferences was to use a form. However, forms serve the purpose of the business, not the consumer. Now, you can skip the form and have a conversation. Chatbots are conversational and offer a much better experience than a form. Additionally, new research found that only 14 percent of consumers would prefer to fill out a form than engage with a chatbot. 

To win, brands must know their customers better and be able to leverage that data to create better experiences. With these simple ideas, you can get to know your customers in a deep and meaningful way and gain the personal data your experiences need to break through.

Fortnite returns (and yes, its blackout was a marketing stunt): 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 daily newsletter. You can also get an audio version of this briefing on your Alexa device.

Fortnite is back
Fortnite, the free online video game, shut players out for nearly two days, with its online world disappearing and the screen turning into a black hole. The hit game returned Tuesday as Fortnite Chapter 2, with new features and a new island setting. But the blackout—which stunned people, left them wondering about the game’s future and got them talking—is something marketers should take a closer look at. Fortune reports

“It was, of course, a PR stunt. But it was one that did exactly what it was supposed to do: It put Fortnite—and its new release Fortnite Chapter 2— firmly back into the collective gaming conversation just as the game was beginning to lose a bit of its coolness factor.”

Also: If you still don’t know much about Epic Games' Fortnite, don’t feel too bad: Lady Gaga just asked Twitter what it is, to the hilarity of gamers.

Got beer?
Soon you may start seeing ads for beer—not for any specific brand, just beer in general. The idea is to help beer compete better, given the growing popularity of wine and spirits (and White Claw). As Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz reports, the campaign, called “Beers to That,” is being tested in Austin, Texas. It casts beer as a celebratory beverage, and it's backed by three trade groups representing distributors, big brewers and craft brewers. (MillerCoors is sitting out the effort, given its ongoing spat with Anheuser-Busch InBev.) The goal is to widen beer’s fan base. “Maybe 20 or 15 years ago we were content to own the pro sports and the Nascar” but “that is not where all the consumers are today,” Craig Purser, president and CEO of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, tells Schultz in the latest edition of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast. Listen to their conversation, then subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

At the Association of National Advertisers conference in Orlando, Florida this month, Dunkin’ U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Tony Weisman wore Dunkin’-branded Saucony sneakers and a Dunkin’ lapel pin. As it turns out, though, the on-brand marketer is leaving Dunkin, Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl reports. Weisman, who spent two years in the role, oversaw Dunkin’s move to drop the “Donuts” from its name. He's leaving as of Dec. 1; it’s not clear what his next move is. 

Just briefly:
“Taco Bell removed and discarded 2.3 million pounds of seasoned beef from eateries in 21 states after a customer found a metal shaving in a menu item,” reports.

Direct-to-fridge: “Walmart is launching a new service that will deliver groceries — and put them away in your fridge,” CNBC reports. It’s called InHome and it launched Tuesday in Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Vero Beach, Florida.

Don’t panic, though: S4 Capital Chairman Martin Sorrell “described the state of holding companies, which he said are too focused on the declining traditional media sector, as ‘catastrophic.’” Read more of Sorrell’s comments from his conversation with Ad Age Editor Brian Braiker at the DPAA Video Everywhere Summit in New York. 

Deepfakes: Are deepfake videos too creepy to use for marketing? Not always. In Ad Age, Garett Sloane looks at what might work: “Company CEOs and celebrity endorsers could speak directly to individuals with customized messages, even referring to a consumer by name.” 

Huh: AMC Entertainment, the movie theater chain, debuted an “iTunes-style online video store” in the United States, The New York Times writes. (Because we definitely are lacking in online video-viewing options.) 

Unboxing of the day: As Google’s Pixel 4 debuts, the company is delivering the phone to some VIPs by tucking it inside Domino’s pizza boxes. "To showcase the Pixel 4's hands-free functions, Google decided people should test out the new phones while their hands are occupied holding pizza,” Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl writes. The concept's a a little tricky to wrap your head around but … why not? Plus, free pizza.

Entries are open now for the Ad Age A-List & Creativity Awards; learn more.

What marketers need to know about deepfakes

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives a chilling address, speaking directly to the camera from behind a desk at his company’s base in Menlo Park, California. “Imagine this for a second: One man, with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” Zuckerberg says. 

The truly sinister part of this public web chat is that Zuckerberg never said those words. The Facebook CEO was deepfaked. The video was real enough, picked from a 2017 publicly streamed speech, but the audio was dubbed by an Israeli startup called Canny AI as an exercise to demonstrate the possible dangers of deepfake technology.  

“Deepfakes have been described as a propaganda weapon,” says Bill Bronske, senior solutions architect at Globant, an internet technology and software development company. “I’ve also heard them described as a potential serious threat to democracy, as well as a host of other negative descriptions. Those descriptions can be accurate, but I think we can more effectively describe deepfakes as a tool.” 

A deepfake is when video or audio is manipulated in a way that is undetectable to people viewing or listening, so that the result is a piece of media that seems authentic. In the era of deepfakes there are two outcomes for brands: They can become a target, or take control of the creative technology and use it to their advantage. 

The challenge 
“The negative part of this technology is using it to put out misinformation,” says Victor Riparbelli, CEO of Synthesia, a video technology firm. “It can be used against brands just like it can be used against people.” 

That is especially true as the technology to create deepfakes becomes more and more democratized. People are seeing it in common apps like Snapchat and Instagram, where augmented reality makes video distortion as simple as clicking a button. Face-swapping is considered a benign use of deepfakes, where people can change their appearance or even take on the visage of someone else.  

Accounts on YouTube have popped up to share videos of convincing face-swaps for entertainment purposes, like one recent video of “Saturday Night Live” alum Bill Hader doing impressions of Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan on an old Letterman appearance. The video depicts Hader’s face morphing into the celebrities.  

Changing how people look is the easy part of deepfake technology. Changing what they say is the true hurdle, Riparbelli says. The Zuckerberg video, while eerie, is not entirely convincing. “If you’re changing what someone is saying it needs to be extremely precise for it to not look really, really weird,” Riparbelli says. 

Deepfakes are created through generative adversarial networks, Bronske says. Those are artificial intelligence programs that fine-tune a deepfake video until it passes a threshold to be considered believable. The adversarial network “tests the output of the generative model to say, ‘Nope, nope, nope. Fake, fake, fake,” Bronske says, “until the video starts coming back as valid, real.” 

The technology is advancing so rapidly that within the next six months, “there will be no human way of denoting a deepfake from a valid video,” Bronske says. 

Tech world giants are combining forces to try to thwart deepfake technology. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter have all taken the threat seriously. Last month, Google released a database of 3,000 deepfaked videos to public institutions, including academia, to help train systems that detect distorted media. 

What brands need to know about benefits and pitfalls of deepfakes:

The opportunity 
Deepfakes can offer an upside for brands in personalization. Synthesia recently worked on a “Malaria No More” campaign with soccer legend David Beckham and ad agency R/GA. The campaign deployed deepfake technology to make it look like Beckham can speak nine languages, altering the message depending on the intended audience. Using deepfake technology in this way can help companies drive personalization around the world. Synthesia is developing artificial
intelligence-based marketing programs so that the same technology that allowed Beckham to speak in multiple languages could be applied to any industry. Company CEOs and celebrity endorsers could speak directly to individuals with customized messages, even referring to a consumer by name.

However, the more brands use deepfakes in daily marketing, the more potential there is for trouble. It’s easy to imagine, say, a brand haphazardly borrowing a celebrity’s image for a campaign—a legal no-no. “Informed consent” is an important first principal, Bronske says. 

Also, if a brand spreads any form of deepfakes, it needs to be up front about the manipulation. “The counter to deception is transparency,” Bronske says. 

There are ways for brands and their CEOs to avoid the Zuckerberg treatment by tagging all media assets they release to the public using blockchain technology, Bronske says. Blockchain can be used as a ledger that authenticates when a piece of media is from the original source, and it tracks any time the original has been altered.  

While companies protect themselves against the dark side of deepfakes, they also need to harness their potential for good, Bronske says. “The brand that wins will be the one that pushes this the furthest, fastest,” Bronske says.