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This year’s Super Bowl ads were lame — and critics blame the pandemic



This year's Super Bowl ads were lame — and critics blame the pandemic

The latest casualty of the pandemic? This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads.

Most Super Bowl LV commercials succumbed to the typical pitfalls of Super Sunday, critics said — they either were overly safe and formulaic, or they were bogged down with celebrities and bad ideas. Experts blamed production challenges well as the tightrope advertisers had to walk given the divided political climate and COVID’s rising death toll.

“Every year in Super Bowl advertising, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Rob Schwartz, chief executive of ad agency TBWAChiatDay. “This year, there was wasn’t enough good and there was more ugly.”

A key exhibit was the Scott’s Miracle-Gro ad which — despite being one of the few spots to allude to the pandemic, saying backyards had “quite a year” — got bogged down with odd mix of celebs from Martha Stewart, NASCAR driver Kyle Busch and an almost unrecognizable John Travolta.

“That was a train wreck,” Schwartz said. “The Super Bowl is a celebrity arms race but the problem is the random celebrity for the backyard garden party. I was thinking: ‘What am I watching?’ It was very confusing.”

On top of the past year’s slew of grim and taboo headlines, advertisers this year were forced to grapple with the persistent “hype” and pressure that comes with having a Super Bowl spot and the hefty $5.5 million price tag for a 30 second ad, he said.

“The amount of money you pay alone makes people conservative,” Schwartz said. “Everyone looks at what has been successful in the past: celebrity, puppy and baby.”

That may have been a problem for trading app Robinhood, which fumbled with an ad that clearly was conceived before the recent GameStop frenzy. Using stock images of average people doing normal things like petting a stranger’s dog, jogging and FaceTiming with a friend, Robinhood attempted to appeal to the everyman.

“You don’t need to become an investor, you were born one,” the narrator concludes the ad.

Calling the 30-second spot a “real flop,” the exec said: “Robinhood actually delivered the biggest sin of the Super Bowl Spot. What they made was boring. If you’re boring, you’re done.”

By contrast Reddit, also at the center of the recent trading frenzy scandal, had a unique, disruptive, five-second ad that flashed images as if it was a car commercial before posting a text :

“If you’re reading this, it means our bets paid off,” the message read. “One thing we learned from our communities last week is that underdogs can accomplish just about anything when we come together around a common area.”

Another whiff was Fiverr’s spot that featured the Four Seasons Total Landscaping company in Philadelphia where, in an apparent screwup, Rudy Giuliani had staged a press conference for Trump’s presidential campaign instead of at the Four Seasons Hotel. The ad featured the landscaping company’s president Marie Siravo riding a futuristic golf cart into the now-famously dingy garage entrance to reveal a lush botanical dreamscape filled with busy workers tending to butterflies and waterfalls.

In addition to being polarizing, Fiverr’s commercial lacked clarity on who Siravo was, what Fiverr does and how her company fits in, said Bill Oberlander, co-founder and executive creative director of ad agency Oberland.

“There’s a saying, ‘it’s a long way to go for a ham sandwich,’” Oberlander said. “If those are the hoops you have to go through to make a point maybe it’s not worth a Super Bowl ad.”

M&M’s generally garnered top marks for its funny ad, featuring Dan Levy, in which a bag of M&M’s is offered as an apology.

“I’m sorry for mansplaining,” said a man, while offering a bag of M&M’s to a younger woman.

“That’s when a man,” he said before the woman interrupts him from mansplaining further. “I know what it is,” she said.

GM’s ad pushing Americans to buy more electric cars, which featured Will Ferrell and fellow comedians Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina, also got top marks from Oberlander for its ability to weave in a purpose-driven message with humor.

Currently, Norway outranks the US in electric car sales. “Well I won’t stand for it,” Ferrell says as he punches a globe in the ad. “With GM’s new Ultium battery, we’re going to crush those lugers. Crush them! Let’s go America.”

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DirecTV to become standalone company through $16B AT&T, TPG deal




DirecTV to become standalone company through $16B AT&T, TPG deal

Telecom giant AT&T has inked a deal with private equity firm TPG that calls for struggling satellite TV provider DirecTV to become a standalone company.

The deal calls for AT&T to sell a 30 percent stake in DirecTV, AT&T TV and its U-Verse to TPG in exchange for $1.8 billion in cash.

The transaction values the satellite TV properties at $16.25 billion — a fraction of the $48.5 billion AT&T shelled out for it in 2015 under former chief executive Randall Stephenson. 

But it paves the way for the telecom and media giant to focus on its growing businesses, including 5G wireless and streaming video service HBO Max, said CEO John Stankey in announcing the deal.

The companies will form a new venture, aptly called DirecTV, that will own and operate the pay video services.

AT&T will also receive $7.8 billion from the new venture after the spinoff is complete, including the assumption of $200 million in debt. It will use the money to pay off debts, it said.

The company under Stankey has been under the directive to focus on core-assets, such as the company’s wireless business, in order to reduce its $149 billion debt load and grow its new streaming service HBO Max.

AT&T put the declining DirecTV on the block last year, but didn’t like the early offers, which came in at more than $15 billion, as The Post reported in December.

DirecTV has been pummeled by cord-cutting, bleeding subscribers and booking a $15.5 billion charge in AT&T’s fourth quarter earnings report last month.

In recent months, AT&T had focused on a divestiture of its stake to private equity groups to avoid regulatory concerns. 

AT&T said Thursday that by keeping a majority stake, DirecTV can still leverage its distribution reach. The telecom giant offered that the new DirecTV “will have a commercial agreement with AT&T to continue to offer bundled pay-TV service for AT&T’s wireless and internet customers. Additionally, AT&T and new DirecTV will have commercial agreements in place that will give new DirecTV video subscribers continued access to HBO Max.”

“This agreement aligns with our investment and operational focus on connectivity and content, and the strategic businesses that are key to growing our customer relationships across 5G wireless, fiber and HBO Max,” Stankey said.

He added: “TPG is the right partner for this transaction and creating a new entity is the right way to structure and manage the video business for optimum value creation.”

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Tesla stock has ‘significant’ link to Reddit posts: analyst




Tesla stock has 'significant' link to Reddit posts: analyst

Tesla might be the biggest meme stock of them all.

The electric-car maker’s stock price appears strongly connected to how many people are talking about it on Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum, Barclays analysts say.

After scraping data from the foul-mouthed message board behind the recent GameStop frenzy, the bank’s researchers found a “statistically significant” relationship between the number of posts about Tesla and its performance on the market.

“We have painfully learned that social media memes can matter more for TSLA share performance than actual financial metrics, fundamentals or (dare we say) valuation,” Barclays analysts led by Ryan Preclaw and Brian Johnson wrote in a research note this week.

Tesla shares tended to outperform the S&P 500 one or two days after big upticks in WallStreetBets submissions about the stock, the analysts found.

Tesla also had positive returns in the days leading up to 20 spikes in Reddit posts about the stock over the past five years, meaning “the statistical significance does not seem caused by only a single event,” the researchers said.

“In the model we think is most appropriate, a swing up of 7 or more submissions today over yesterday has been predictive of outsized returns in TSLA stock tomorrow,” the Barclays team wrote in its Tuesday note.

But the findings came with some caveats. The analysts only examined WallStreetBets posts that mentioned Tesla’s ticker symbol without referencing any other stocks. There also might not be enough data to make a rock-solid link between Reddit chatter and Tesla’s movement, according to the note.

“The situation has been so dynamic that there are simply too few examples to be confident of a stable process between WSB posts and TSLA returns,” the analysts wrote. “Even more than usual, past results might not predict future performance.”

Tesla shares tumbled as much as 6.3 percent to $695 on Thursday after Bloomberg News reported that the Elon Musk-led automaker had halted some production of its Model 3 sedan at its California plant for about two weeks.

The stock came under pressure earlier this week amid a drop in the price of bitcoin, which Tesla added to its balance sheet last month.

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Costco to hike its minimum wage to $16 an hour




Costco to hike its minimum wage to $16 an hour

Costco is boosting its minimum hourly wage to $16 starting next week, the warehouse retailer’s chief executive said during congressional testimony on Thursday.

The $1-an-hour wage increase exceeds the pay that competitors Target, Walmart and other big-box retailers offer their employees and comes amid a national discussion about raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Earlier this month, Walmart said it would raise the average pay for 425,000 of its employees to $15 an hour, while still maintaining its starting wage of $11.

“This isn’t altruism,” Costco’s CEO, Craig Jelinek, told the US Senate Budget Committee on Thursday. “In the long run, by minimizing turnover, maximizing employee productivity, commitment and loyalty, we encourage our employees to view Costco as providing a career rather than just a job.”

Jelinik said half of Costco’s 180,000 employees in the US are paid at the top of the company’s hourly pay scale in excess of $25 an hour and most of these employees, he added, receive regular twice yearly bonuses of up to $4,000 a pop. 

The average hourly wage for employees including these bonuses comes to about $24 an hour, he said.

The Biden administration has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25 an hour.

During the pandemic Costco had added an extra $2 an hour in so called hazard pay to frontline workers’ checks, but that will end this year as the company adds a permanent pay increase, Jelinik said.

The members-only discount retailer based in Issaquah, Wash. claims that its pay and benefits have resulted in lower turnover as more than 60 percent of its employees have been with the company for at least five years and more than a third have been there for more than a decade. 

“We feel the experience level and loyalty of our employees is a significant advantage for our company,” Jelinik said.

Costco’s move, industry experts said, is likely to put pressure on other large retailers to revamp their pay.

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