FBI Probe Examines Ad Firms' Practices

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have opened an investigation into media-buying practices in the advertising industry and have begun issuing subpoenas as part of the probe, according to people familiar with the matter.
 The investigation is looking at, among other things, nontransparent ad-buying practices, including agencies receiving rebates from media outlets, the people said. One advertising company under scrutiny in the investigation is Havas SA, the ad company owned by media conglomerate Vivendi SA, the people said.

WPP Puts Creative, Digital Together

WPP PLC is merging its well-known creative agency Young & Rubicam with its digital- ad firm VML, part of the advertising giant's efforts to deal with digital disruption across the industry.
 The company said the combined business would be called VMLY&R, employ 7,000 people and be led by Jon Cook, who is currently VML's global chief executive. David Sable, Y&R's

Building Buzz off the Runway

GUCCI HAS COME to dominate fashion season social media with its mix of pop culture and high fashion — like a new Mickey Mouse head handbag the brand unveiled here Monday. But rivals are rapidly ramping up their efforts to challenge Gucci's buzz-building crown.
 Gucci's Paris show demonstrated its conversation-starting savvy: A model walked the runway with a large white cockatoo named Kiki sitting on her shoulder. A photo

Media Executive Tries New Tack on Ads

At the annual advertising festival on the French Riviera two summers ago, top New York Times Co. executive Meredith Kopit Levien sipped rosé with marketing executives from Samsung Electronics Co.
 She brought a high-profile guest: Times columnist Maureen Dowd. At Samsung's virtual- reality installation, the group took turns trying on the latest goggles to immerse themselves in an interactive theater experience. A formal ad-sales pitch soon followed from Ms. Levien's team.

A Chat With Neustar's Michael Schoen: Solving the Identity Crisis

While today's CMOs have access to an unprecedented amount of customer data, making use of that information in an effective, strategic way is a huge challenge for even the most data-savvy brands. Finding customer intelligence solutions that can help make sense of all of that data — starting with clearly identifying customers across all channels — is key. We spoke with Michael Schoen, Vice President and General Manager of Marketing Solutions for Neustar, who provided some expert advice for bringing data to life.  

What's an Online Ad Worth? Blockchain May Help With That

Digital advertising has a serious problem: fraud. Widespread fraudulent practices are inflating measures of the traffic that digital ads attract, leading some advertisers to pay higher rates than they should.
 Can blockchain fix it? A handful of blockchain startups believe so. They argue that a shared digital ledger to authenticate and safeguard advertising data, a transparent exchange for trading digital ads, and a special ad-focused browser that pays its users in tokens could each help fix that multibillion-dollar problem.

WPP Veteran Emerges as Top CEO Choice

WPP PLC executive Mark Read has emerged as the leading contender to become chief executive of the advertising giant, according to people familiar with the matter, following the departure of founder Martin Sorrell.
 Ad industry veteran and former WPP executive Hamish McLennan, another top candidate, is no longer in the running, the people said.
 Mr. Read is a longtime WPP executive who was elevated to the role of co-chief operating officer in April when Mr. Sorrell left the company.

Ads That Follow You Get New Scrutiny

KIM MERRIKIN spent a lot of time online last year researching which car she wanted to buy. Soon, the communications manager at a Seattle nonprofit noticed car advertisements on the websites she visited, even for specific cars she had just researched. In December, she bought a new 2018 Subaru Crosstrek. The ads didn't stop.
 “A week after I bought a car, these ads were still in my feed,” she says. “They were totally following me to every site with ads on it that I went to.”

Ad Boycotts May Work, But Not for Very Long

In the social-media age, ad boycotts receive more attention, but that trend hasn't made them more effective.
 In the past year or so, several brands have been pressured by consumers and activists to pull their ad spending from controversial outlets. Last spring, a number of brands fled Google Inc.'s YouTube when their ads began running alongside extremist content on the site. Companies have also joined ad boycotts against Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham of Fox News.

Behind the Tide Super Bowl Ad

THE TIDE ADS that peppered this year's Super Bowl are expected to stir up a buzz at Cannes this week. The detergent maker was a big winner the night of Feb. 4 with its series of spots parodying stereotypical TV ads, including plugs for low budget insurance, beer, a new car, and even an Amazon Alexa ad. The one thing all of the Tide ads had in common: the spotlessly clean clothes everyone wore, as David Harbour, star of the Netflix hit “Stranger Things,” points out each time.