Budweiser Gained’t Promote on the Tremendous Bowl: Dwell Updates

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Budweiser, via Associated Press

Budweiser, the beer giant whose commercials featuring Clydesdale horses, croaking frogs and winsome puppies made it one of the most beloved Super Bowl advertisers, is opting out of the game-time broadcast this year for the first time in 37 years to focus on raising awareness for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Budweiser, an Anheuser-Busch company, said Monday that it would donate portions of its advertising budget this year to the Ad Council, a nonprofit marketing group at the helm of a $50 million ad blitz to fight coronavirus vaccine skepticism. Instead of debuting a splashy big-game commercial, as Super Bowl advertisers often do in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 7 match, the beer company released its 90-second online vaccination ad, titled “Bigger Picture.” (Anheuser-Busch will still feature prominently during the game, with ads for several of its other beer brands.)

Other Super Bowl stalwarts, including Coca-Cola, Hyundai and Pepsi, will also be missing onscreen. As the pandemic disrupted the sports industry, many companies hesitated to pay CBS roughly $5.5 million for a 30-second slot during a game that some worried could be delayed or even canceled.

In the Budweiser Covid-19 vaccination ad, the actress Rashida Jones urges viewers to “turn our strength into hope” while the melody of “Lean on Me” plays as inspirational images from the pandemic are shown. Ms. Jones, who recorded her narration while isolated from other people in a Hollywood facility, said in an interview that “obviously people want to be entertained, they want to watch funny commercials,” but “what’s most important is that we prioritize this next phase.”

The Super Bowl advertising season, which usually extends beyond the broadcast into weeks of teasers, celebrity reveals, YouTube debuts and celebratory live events, is more subdued as companies struggle to adopt an appropriate tone after a year full of marketing missteps.

“You can’t pretend like everything’s OK,” Ms. Jones said. “People can sense when brands are exploiting a moment.”





Biden Administration Plans to Add Harriet Tubman to $20 Bill

On Monday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said that the Treasury Department plans to speed up the process of adding Harriet Tubman’s portrait to the front of the $20 bill.

Reporter: “The Obama administration initially had wanted to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, and the Trump administration dragged their feet on that. I wanted to see if the Biden administration has some view of the timeline on whether or not she should be on the paper currency?” “I was here when we announced that. And it was very exciting and hasn’t moved forward yet, which we would have been surprised to learn at the time. The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes. It’s important that our notes are money — people don’t know what a note is — reflect the history and diversity of our country. And Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that. So we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort. But any specifics would, of course, come from the Department of Treasury.”

Video player loadingOn Monday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said that the Treasury Department plans to speed up the process of adding Harriet Tubman’s portrait to the front of the $20 bill.

President Biden’s Treasury Department is studying ways to speed up the process of adding Harriet Tubman’s portrait to the front of the $20 bill after the Trump administration allowed the Obama-era initiative to lapse, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Monday.

The decision to have Ms. Tubman replace Andrew Jackson as the face of the $20 note was set in motion in 2016 by the Treasury secretary at the time, Jacob Lew. President Donald J. Trump opposed the idea, and his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, stopped work on that part of the currency redesign, arguing that adding new security features to the money was a more urgent priority. Mr. Mnuchin said that notes with new imagery could not be put into circulation until 2028 and that a future Treasury secretary would make the call whether to replace Jackson.

The Treasury Department, which Mr. Biden has nominated Janet L. Yellen to lead, plans to accelerate that timeline.

“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Ms. Psaki said. “It’s important that our money reflect the history and diversity of our country.”

Mr. Trump professed to be a fan Andrew Jackson, a fellow populist, and was a fierce opponent of altering historical images and statues.

Mr. Mnuchin’s decision to slow-walk the change drew backlash from some Democrats in Congress and triggered a probe from the Treasury inspector general about whether the process faced improper political interference. The inquiry found no wrongdoing by Mr. Mnuchin.

Under Mr. Lew’s plan, the new design was supposed to be unveiled in 2020 on the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Preliminary designs of the note that were obtained by The New York Times revealed that —before Mr. Trump took office — conceptual work on a bill bearing Tubman’s likeness on the front and a statue of Jackson on the back was already underway.

Shoppers wait outside of a GameStop on Black Friday. An online community of traders seem to be fueling a spike in the store’s share price.Credit…Go Nakamura for The New York Times

In an epic contest between Wall Street traders who bet against stocks and legions of small-scale investors, the small guys are winning.

On Monday, shares of the struggling video game retailer GameStop surged more than 40 percent at one point, adding to a recent rally that has lifted the stock by roughly 400 percent in January and making it a glaring illustration of the growing power of small investors in certain segments of the financial markets.

Shares of companies like GameStop are becoming detached from the kinds of factors that traditionally help benchmark a company’s valuation — like growth potential or profits. Analysts expect the company to report a loss from continuing operations of $465 million for 2020, on top of the $795 million it lost in 2019.

What seems to be fueling this spike is an online community of traders, who congregate in places like Reddit’s “Wall Street Bets” forum and hype up individual trades. Lately, they’ve made buying short-dated call options on GameStop’s shares — an aggressive bet that the shares will rise — a favorite position.

Market analysts and academics say a rush of new money in such short-dated call options can create a sort of feedback loop that drives the underlying share prices higher, as brokerage firms that sell the options have to themselves buy shares to hedge the contracts.

In GameStop’s case, these small investors have found themselves going up against a different group of speculators. The company’s struggles have also made it a favorite target for short-sellers — who bet on a stock’s decline by selling shares they don’t actually own. Short sellers profit when a stock has plunged and they can buy those same shares back at a lower price.

Of course, with GameStop’s shares surging, those investors are losing a lot of money. And their rush to get out of the trade by buying shares can cause a surge in prices, too, called a short squeeze.

On Monday, the small traders on Wall Street Bets and the messaging site Discord were encouraging each other to hold on to their positions as the short-sellers ran for the exits.

“Am I too late to get on the GME rocket?,” one commenter on Wall Street Bets wrote shortly after 10 a.m.

“No buy the dip,” another responded.

On Discord, the message was clear.

“GME ONLY UP,” one commenter wrote.

Google said it will make company buildings, parking lots and open spaces available to serve as temporary vaccination clinics in partnership with health care providers and public health officials.

In a blog post on Monday, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said the company will start by opening sites in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, with plans to expand to other sites nationwide.

The move is part of a series of measures to help accelerate vaccination efforts. Google also said it plans to contribute $100 million in ad credits to health organizations to educate people about the vaccine and $50 million for groups working on fair access to the vaccine.

It will also include more information in search results and maps to help people find vaccination locations with details about who is eligible and whether appointments are necessary. Google said it will provide local distribution information in search results in the coming week so people can determine whether they are eligible to receive a vaccine.

A store in Brooklyn advertised to cash stimulus checks in April.Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

Are $2,000 stimulus checks a good way to help the economy and fight poverty or a misuse of government resources?

The centerpiece of President Biden’s coronavirus economic relief plan — to send Americans another $1,400 in addition to the $600 already authorized by Congress — polls well with the public, but some economists and politicians from both parties have reservations.

In The Morning newsletter, David Leonhardt lays out three main arguments both for and against the idea, based on his conversations with experts:

1. People need help. Almost 10 million fewer Americans are working now than when the pandemic began, and normal life is still months from returning. The checks will let people decide for themselves how to spend the money, and much of this spending will stimulate the economy and create jobs.

2. It’s simple. At a time when many people don’t trust the government, easy-to-understand policies can build trust. The Obama administration designed a complex stimulus program in 2009 and didn’t get much political credit for it.

3. It’s surprisingly progressive. The check means much more to a poor or working-class family than it does to an upper-middle-class family. (Very affluent families don’t qualify for the checks.)

1. Many people don’t need the money. Neither house prices nor stock prices have fallen — and many people’s expenses have declined — leaving most Americans financially better off than a year ago. As a result, many people will save the money the government sends them.

2. It’s possible to target the money. Mr. Biden’s stimulus could instead increase unemployment benefits even more than it now proposes. Or it could do more to help small businesses stay open. Or more to expand child care.

3. F.D.R. wouldn’t have done it. Sending people money does little to address the country’s deepest problems — like climate change and the underlying causes of inequality. Those problems require coordinated government action.

“I don’t ever remember F.D.R. recommending sending a damn penny to a human being. He gave ’em a job and gave ’em a paycheck,” Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has said.

Adam Aron, left, was the chief executive of the Philadelphia 76ers, among other jobs, before he entered the movie theater business.Credit…Tim Shaffer for The New York Times

AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest multiplex operator, avoided yet another brush with death on Monday, revealing in a securities filing that it had found enough money to keep running until July if attendance does not begin to recover, and the full year if it does.

AMC’s chief executive, Adam Aron, had said in mid-December that AMC needed to raise another $750 million to squeak through. By early this month, it had lined up $204 million. In the filing on Monday, the company said it had secured an additional $713 million, bringing the total to $917 million — and averting bankruptcy for the fifth time in less than a year. AMC had previously raised more than $1 billion in fits and starts.

The latest lifeline came, in part, from Odeon, AMC’s European chain. The company was able to refinance an existing line of Odeon credit and come up with $411 million.

AMC had about $308 million in cash at the end of the year, according to the filing, and had a monthly average cash burn rate in October, November and December of $124 million. About 438 of the company’s 593 theaters in the United States are open, albeit with limited seating and operating hours (and no major movies to play); 86 of 360 locations are open overseas.

Mr. Aron has had one of the wildest corporate rides of the pandemic, which has severely tested chief executives everywhere. And it is not over yet. Even with the new funding, AMC will need to persuade landlords to extend rent deferrals that were negotiated early in the pandemic. Theater owners also need film studios to begin releasing major movies. Last week, studios announced more postponements, leaving “Black Widow” (May 7) as the next would-be blockbuster on Hollywood’s release schedule.

The pandemic has also thrust Mr. Aron, 66, to the front lines of the streaming wars. Over the past six months, his industry has blasted him as a traitor one minute, when he agreed to drastically shorten the exclusive window that AMC receives to play Universal films, and hailed him as a trailblazer the next, with two other chains, Cinemark Holdings and Cineplex, following AMC’s lead.

Even if he does manage to steer AMC through the pandemic, Mr. Aron faces bone-chilling challenges on the other side. At best, the company will emerge deep in debt. Moviegoing could surge with pent-up demand. Or the masses, now trained to expect instant access to major films on streaming services or online rental platforms, could be reluctant to return.

Nobody really knows.

Xi Jinping, China’s top official, did not mention former President Donald J. Trump by name, but took aim at his international policies.Credit…Pascal Bitz/EPA, via Shutterstock

For four years, China’s leader has tried to portray himself as the antithesis of former President Donald J. Trump on issues ranging from trade and technology policy to support for the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Xi Jinping, China’s top official, grabbed one more chance to do so on Monday, while offering few clues about what specific policies he might pursue with the Biden administration.

Addressing the World Economic Forum’s online “Davos Agenda” gathering, Mr. Xi called for international cooperation on everything from halting the pandemic to restarting global economic growth. He repeatedly assailed unilateral policies without ever mentioning either Mr. Trump or the United States.

“History and reality have made it clear time and again that the misguided approach of antagonism and confrontation, be it in the form of Cold War, hot war, trade war or tech war would eventually hurt all countries’ interests and undermine everyone’s well-being,” he said.

Mr. Xi said that the Group of 20 should be strengthened “as the premier forum for global economic governance.” China has long favored the Group of 20 as a broad forum that includes it and some of its allies.

The group has to a considerable extent supplanted the Group of 7 industrialized democracies as the main venue for economic coordination. The Group of 7 atrophied during Mr. Trump’s presidency, as his relations were often frosty with American allies in Europe, Canada and Japan. The Group of 7 heads of state were not even able to gather at Camp David, Md., last March because of the pandemic.

One question facing the Biden administration lies in whether to strengthen the Group of 7 once more as a bastion of democracy or whether to accept a more prominent role for the Group of 20.

  • Stocks were mixed. The S&P 500 fell while the Nasdaq composite rose slightly ahead of a earnings reports this week from a number of big technology companies.

  • Apple stood out among the big tech stocks, with a gain of more than 2 percent. Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook were slightly higher.

  • Most European indexes were lower, with concerns growing about the pace of the vaccination rollout and the latest business surveys recording a big decline in expectations for Germany’s economy.

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.2 percent, led by losses in financial and energy companies. The CAC 40 in France, DAX in Germany and FTSE 100 in Britain all dropped more than 1 percent.

  • In Britain, there has been a shake-up in the retail industry, with newer online brands sweeping up the old guard: Shares in Boohoo, the fast-fashion online retailer, jumped as much as 5.7 percent after it said it would buy the brand of Debenhams, a two-century-old chain of department stores that fell into insolvency last year. The stores are likely to be shut down.

  • Shares in ASOS, another online retailer, climbed as much as 6.4 percent after it confirmed that it was in talks to buy some of Arcadia’s most popular brands, including Topshop, following the collapse of the downtown fixture.

  • The Turkish-owned Godiva chocolatier announced it would close or sell all 128 brick-and-mortar locations in North America by the end of the first quarter in response to the turmoil in retail wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. Its retail operations across Europe, the Middle East and Greater China will remain, and U.S. consumers will be able to continue to purchase online and at retail partners stores.

  • Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, will buy Ubitricity, a European provider of on-street charging points for electric vehicles, the companies said Monday. Shell and other oil giants are investing not only in cleaner energy sources like wind and solar but in infrastructure, like charging points for delivering it. Ubitricity, which was founded in Berlin and has a large presence in Britain, installs its plugs at lamp posts and other street features.

  • Google said Monday it would allocate $150 million to promote education and equitable access to coronavirus vaccines around the world. The effort will include ad grants to nonprofit organizations to spread public health service announcements; expanded information when people search for information on local services; and space in Google buildings, parking lots and other facilities for vaccination clinics.

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