Amazon Buys Live Video-Gaming Tournament Operator, Aims to Inject Brands

Amazon has deepened its foray into video games by purchasing GoodGame, a company that owns teams of video-game players and hosts live gaming tournaments.

Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. The deal follows Amazon’s announcement in August that it had agreed to pay $970 million to buy Twitch Interactive, a streaming video site that lets users discuss gaming and watch others play.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made video games a focus as the Seattle-based online retailer adds entertainment services. Amazon is boosting its TV programming available to members of its Prime fast-shipping program. The company also operates a game studio in Seattle and has been luring software developers to build more video-game titles for its Fire TV set-top box, Fire Phone and Kindle Fire tablets.

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Dove Men+Care Will Return to Super Bowl Five Years After Launch

Unilever’s Dove Men+Care is returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since its U.S. introduction in 2010 with a new campaign aimed at supporting the brand’s commitment to “celebrating modern men,” the company said.

Since the brand arrived in the U.S., its advertising has been about challenging “traditional and often stereotypical marketing that men were used to seeing,” said Jennifer Bremner, director of marketing for Dove Men+Care, in a statement. “We are returning to football’s biggest stage to continue to celebrate the multi-dimensional aspects of masculinity that truly define what it means to be a man today.”

The brand will post information about its efforts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram leading up to the Feb. 1 broadcast on NBC.

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YouTube's Rewind Features Its Own Stars — and That Devil Baby

YouTube has had a big year, even by its own standards.

In 2014 the Google-owned streaming video service got a new boss, a new revenue stream and a new rival. It also rolled out a massive marketing campaign, the first of what are expected to be several ad-free subscription services and a new production studio in New York. And its stars landed on “Dancing With the Stars,” The New York Times bestseller list and one saw his book turn into a film called “The Fault in Our Stars.”

To celebrate its big year, the nine-year-old company and creative studio Portal A produced a year-in-review video starring some of its biggest celebrities, like Grace Helbig taking a selfie, the Smosh brothers and Fine brothers taking the Ice Bucket Challenge, Bethany Mota taking on “Let It Go” from “Frozen” and Freddie W taking over Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show.

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Have It Your Way… at McDonald's

In an effort to reduce complexity from its operation, McDonald’s will trim eight items from the menu starting in January — while also addding a customized option for burgers and and chicken sandwiches.

The chain said today it will also reduce its extra-value meal combos from 16 to 11. It didn’t specify what items would get cut, but the chain is paring down the items in part to help speed up operations. McDonald’s noted that four out of five sales are from a small number of items.

During an investor meeting Wednesday, executives hinted at cutting at least some of the McWraps, which the chain introduced in 2013 to lure in millennials. It is also preparing to roll out a “Create your taste” platform, an effort to lure consumers who favor restaurants that allow easy customization like Chipotle. The platform includes kiosks with tablets that lets customers select everything that will go on their sandwiches.

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Esther Lee Leaves AT&T to Lead Global Marketing for MetLife

Esther Lee, senior VP-advertising for AT&T, is leaving the wireless carrier for insurance conglomerate MetLife, where she will serve as exec VP-global CMO.

Ms. Lee will begin at MetLife on January 12, reporting directly to chairman-CEO Steven Kandarian.

“As MetLife focuses globally on meeting evolving consumer needs, Esther’s deep understanding of international brand and marketing dynamics and her success in leading the growth of established worldwide brands such as AT&T and Coca-Cola will be tremendous assets,” Mr. Kandarian said in a statement.

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Victoria's Secret Transforms London Into a Catwalk. It's the Newest Ads on TV

Every weekday, we bring you the Ad Age/iSpot Hot Spots, new and trending TV commercials tracked by, a company that catalogs, tags and measures activity around TV ads in real time. The New Releases here ran on TV for the first time yesterday. The Most Engaging ads are showing sustained social heat, ranked by SpotShare scores reflecting the percent of digital activity associated with each one over the past week. See the methodology here.

Among the new releases, J.C. Penney serves up gift ideas that are both naughty and nice. And Victoria’s Secret unveiled two new spots during the Victoria Secret Fashion Show — one for its “Heavenly” fragrance and another that transforms the streets of London into a runway.

As always, you can find out more about the best commercials on TV at Ad Age’s Creativity.

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Facebook to Make Sure the Right People See Publishers' Posts

Facebook keeps coming up with ways to reduce the amount of bloat in people’s news feeds. But while recent efforts have angered those putting out that bloat — advertisers and social gaming firms — Facebook’s latest move seems intended to pre-empt any pushback.

Facebook unveiled a few new tools on Wednesday to give publishers a better shot at making sure people on Facebook see their stories.

One tool lets publishers target their Facebook posts at a subset of their fans interested in certain topics. Another lets publishers put an expiration date on their posts so that timely stories like “What time does the Super Bowl start?” don’t pop up in people’s feeds a week after the big game. And a third tool serves as a backup for publishers who might not be aware a story has struck a social chord. Called Smart Publishing, it identifies a story that a lot of people are linking to on Facebook and, for publishers who opt-in, then posts it in the news feeds of people who like that publisher’s Facebook page.

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Nationwide Returns to Super Bowl After Eight-Year Hiatus

Nationwide is returning to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2007. The company became the official insurance sponsor of the NFL in August and signed a new deal with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in May.

“We’ve had a big year. We unified our brand under the iconic N and Eagle logo, started a new relationship with one of the biggest stars in sports, Peyton Manning, and deepened our relationship with the NFL,” said Matt Jauchius, CMO at Nationwide, in a statement. “We felt the time was right to return to America’s biggest advertising stage.”

Nationwide has not released any details on its media buy or its creative plans.

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Uber Cuts Promotional Deal With Sprint

Uber, the Silicon Valley darling with a penchant for PR disasters, is burrowing deeper into our lives.

On Wednesday, the cab-hailing app signed a deal to come pre-installed on all new Android phones offered from Sprint. With its deal, Sprint is also offering users new to Uber a $20 ride discount, part of the carrier’s recent bid to grow its thinning customer base.

It comes on the heels of a terrible week for Uber, which jettisoned a mind-boggling $40 billion valuation and found itself banned in cities around the world. New Delhi, India moved to ban the mobile-app after a woman was raped by an Uber driver. Additional bans followed in Spain, Thailand and Portland, Oregon.

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City Spotlight: Tiny Amsterdam Boasts Big Relaxed, Liberal Vibe

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J&J Taps Former P&G Exec Behind Tide Pods for Top Consumer Role

Johnson & Johnson has tapped former Procter & Gamble Co. executive Jorge Mesquita as worldwide chairman of its consumer companies.

Mr. Mesquita, 53, is joining J&J Dec. 15 and will oversee such brands as Neutrogena, Listerine, Aveeno, Johnson’s and Tylenol. He succeeds Lynn Pendergrass, who left J&J in May for personal reasons, the company said. He’ll report to Group Worldwide Chairman Sandi Peterson, serve on the corporation’s management committee and lead the Consumer Group Operating Committee.

Mr. Mesquita, born in Mozambique, worked for P&G for nearly 30 years and was once seen by some in the company as a contender to ultimately become CEO. Trained as a chemical engineer, he joined P&G in Venezuela in 1984 in product development, but moved into brand management in 1987. He became VP of North America Fabric Care in 1999 and in 2001 president-global home care, leading a business that launched Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and built such then-new brands as Swiffer and Febreze.

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As New Bloomberg Business Site Approaches, Company Eyes Larger Audience

Bloomberg L.P. has spent the last year pouring money and resources into its media arm — which still labors in the shadow of the terminal business that made Michael Bloomberg a billionaire — to better attract audiences and advertisers. Now the most visible results of its work are about to emerge, executives said, starting with the roll-out of a digital mother ship called Bloomberg Business — a website that will live at and become Bloomberg Businessweek magazine’s new home online.

The site’s aim is to both translate the vivid design and storytelling of Businessweek to digital and fill a “conversation gap,” according to Josh Topolsky, editor-Bloomberg Digital and chief digital content officer. “Bloomberg News will do a killer breaking news story,” Mr. Topolsky said. “Businessweek might do a big feature around that or some pieces of that story. But in between, all week long, there are conversations happening.”

“We’re trying to take the vibe of Businessweek and take it to a space that’s minute-to-minute,” he added.

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Lowe's Explores Native Tools on Vine, Instagram

Lowe’s is again experimenting with new digital marketing strategies as it gears up for its prime spring selling season, rolling out two social initiatives today that play with native tools on Vine and Instagram. The creative breaks down home improvement projects, showing them from inspiration to completion in an effort to make projects seem more possible.

Short-form content has been at the forefront of Lowe’s digital strategy this year with the “Fix in Six” Vine series that offers simple tips like using walnuts to remove scratches from wood. The campaign helped land Lowe’s on Ad Age’s 2014 Marketer A-List.

The new Vine series, called “How-To Tap Thru,” builds on those six-second videos with the platform’s tap-to-stop technology. It’s used to break projects into steps viewers can pause, turning a quick video into a tutorial. It also allows Lowe’s to tackle more complex projects and expand its content base.

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Forrester: B-to-B Content Fails to Engage Users

The majority of b-to-b websites fail to engage users with content, according to a new report from Forrester Research.

The report, “B-to-B Content Fails the Customer Engagement Test,” was based on a review of 30 b-to-b websites in six industries: technology, software, investing, medical products, manufacturing and services.

Forrester identified 10 criteria for engaging content, ranging from a customer-centric home page to innovative use of video. A perfect score was 30 and a passing score was 20. Only four companies passed (Forrester declined to say which ones), and the average score was just 12.8.

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Google News Shutting Down in Spain Rather Than Paying to Aggregate

Google will close its news portal in Spain and remove Spanish publishers from Google News everywhere following new copyright legislation that lets publishers charge internet companies for their content that’s aggregated by other websites.

The company will close Google News in Spain on Dec. 16 before the new law takes effect in January, Richard Gingras, the head of Google’s news service, wrote in a blog post.

“This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not,” Mr. Gingras wrote. “As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.”

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Study Uses Data to Track Consumer Emotions When They Buy

People imbibe energy drinks when they’re stressed out.

At least that’s according to the results of a preliminary study attempting to gauge the emotional state of consumers when they purchase or consume products.

The project and a related technology — deemed “Honey” — is a collaboration of Omnicom-owned agency Sparks & Honey and a tech startup Emozia, which provides what it calls Emotive Recognition Technology.

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Xiaomi Blocked From Sales in India Following Court Order

Ericsson won a court order blocking the import and sale of Xiaomi Corp. devices in India that it said infringe wireless technology patents.

Xiaomi, and its local e-commerce partner, can’t make, import or sell the devices in question until a Feb. 5 hearing, according to a ruling by the High Court of Delhi. The Chinese smartphone maker began India sales in July, and the country is its biggest overseas market.

The lawsuit follows more than three years of attempts to negotiate licensing for patents with Xiaomi, Ericsson spokesman Gaurav Sharma said in an e-mail. Founded in 2010, Xiaomi’s success with low-cost devices running Google Inc.’s Android system has vaulted the company to third place globally in smartphones behind Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc.

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Woven Digital Raises $18 Million to Keep Pace With BuzzFeed, Vox, Vice

Another week, another digital media company with a big funding round.

Woven Digital has raised $18 million in the company’s second funding round since its 2010 launch. Woven intends to use the funding money to add more people to its ad sales and editorial teams, grow its video business into eventually accounting for half of the company’s revenue and develop its publishing tools to be better at trendspotting, according to Woven CEO Scott Grimes.

Up until now the millennial-male-skewing publisher has largely stayed away from taking outside money. It raised $5.5 million in seed money, but largely relied on its own revenue over the last few years to build its business and acquire other sites, Mr. Grimes said. He said that revenue has doubled each year for the last three years but declined to provide actual figures.

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How to Cure 'Notification Numbness'

“Notification numbness” is spreading through today’s mobile society. When driving down the street, we can predict with a high degree of accuracy when our devices will push us a notification telling us about a local savings offer at the business we just passed. The first couple of times this is fantastic. Knowing there is a BOGO offer or savings now at our favorite store catches our attention immediately, but it quickly wanes as it becomes routine every time we pass and ignore, delete or turn the notification for that app off.

Notifications are a core component to effective one-to-one mobile marketing and app retention. This is not to critique push notifications, but to highlight how optimizing delivery can help brands and consumers both win. Notifications provide consumers with highly valuable time-sensitive information and will continue to grow in usage as wearables become more entwined in our day-to-day activities and beacons proliferate into all aspects of life. The core way people are interacting with their smart watches today is largely driven by notifications, and with the AppleWatch on the horizon, notifications will play a key part of engagement.

There are a number of ways consumers can engage with push notifications that we can look to leverage. There is basic opt-in (on iOS with Android, consumers are generally opted-in automatically) — this is what you receive when you download the app and are prompted to allow for push. According to a blog post from Localytics, 52% of people opt-in to receive push notifications when they download an app.

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Sony Considered Selling Crackle, Home of 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee'

Sony Pictures Television has weighed selling a majority stake in Crackle, the streaming video company best known for Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” according to e-mails made public by hackers.

Executives at Sony have discussed a deal with Evolution Media Capital, an investment bank backed by Hollywood talent firm Creative Artists Agency, according to a Nov. 3 e-mail from Eric Berger, the general manager of Crackle.

An outside investment in Crackle would free up cash the website could spend on original series and marketing, Mr. Berger wrote in an e-mail to Steve Mosko, president of Sony Pictures Television. The company would also improve its balance sheet with proceeds, as Sony executives discussed months earlier.

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