Bezos steps down from Amazon, Lil Nas X and Dolly Parton lend more celebrity glitz to the Super Bowl: 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 Wake-Up Call newsletters.
In a move that seems to have come as a shock to just about everyone, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced on Tuesday he was stepping down as CEO, handing the reins to Andy Jassy, the head of Amazon Web Services.
As Ad Age’s Garett Sloane reports, the power change came as the company reported blockbuster fourth-quarter earnings: It made $125.6 billion in sales in the fourth quarter of last year, growing 44% year-over-year as it benefited from the surge in online retail in the pandemic.
Bezos will become executive chairman of the board of directors. As Sloane points out, despite leading the online retailer to astonishing success, he has also become “a lightning rod for people and political leaders concerned about wealth disparities in the U.S.” There have also been questions about his leadership; on Tuesday, one of those issues came to light when Amazon agreed to pay a $61.7 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission.
“Right now, I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition,” Bezos said in the announcement. Or maybe, as big tech comes under closer scrutiny than ever, it’s an optimal time to take a back seat.
Yesterday was another massive day for Super Bowl ads and teasers, including one for the aforementioned Amazon, which revealed its full-length spot. Created by Lucky Generals and featuring actor Michael B. Jordan embodying Alexa in the fantasies of a female executive, it’s sure to go down well with the Big Game’s female viewers.
Celebrities abounded in other Super Bowl ads revealed yesterday: Matthew McConaughey goes from flat to puffy in the ad for Doritos 3D Crunch; Scotts Miracle-Gro shows how Martha Stewart and John Travolta used their backyards during the pandemic; and Dolly Parton puts a new twist to her classic “9 to 5” song for Squarespace. Lil Nas X is back in the game after last year’s Doritos ad, this time for Logitech. And Nick Jonas (who has Type 1 diabetes) will star in a Super Bowl commercial for Dexcom, a glucose monitoring system for diabetes management. See all the Super Bowl ads so far here.
Stayed tuned for plenty more spots coming today. And watch Ad Age’s latest edition of Remotely at 10.30AM ET to get the inside scoop on online jobs site Indeed’s Super Bowl plans, as Jeanine Poggi is joined by its VP, global brand marketing, Jennifer Warren.
One of the highest profile celebrity pairings of the Super Bowl so far is married couple Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, who appear in the Cheetos commercial alongside Shaggy in an updated version of his cheaters' anthem "It Wasn't Me." And Ad Age got exclusive access to the shoot, via Zoom, for a behind-the-scenes look at how they pulled it off.
Jessica Wohl’s special Anatomy of an Ad report includes interviews with the stars, along with director Bryan Buckley, Goodby Silverstein Chief Creative Officer Margaret Johnson and the client, Marissa Solis, senior VP of portfolio marketing, Frito-Lay North America. They touch on the COVID-secure shoot, the importance of making people laugh at a “heavy” time—and why snacks always taste better when they belong to someone else.
A ‘resilient’ performance at Publicis Groupe’s U.S. arm helped boost its results for the final quarter of 2020, despite its overall growth for the full year having been impacted by the pandemic. It has reported broadly flat net revenue for 2020, down 0.9% for 2020 at 9.71 billion euros ($11.68 billion) and organic growth down 6.3%. However, there is a marked contrast between its performance in the U.S., where organic growth showed a slight uptick in the final quarter, compared with Europe, where it continued to fall.
Meanwhile, in a boost for employee morale, Publicis also said it would repay in full the salary cuts taken by 6,000 employees earlier in the pandemic, in a decision signed off by the board yesterday morning.
Awards deadline: There’s still time to enter the 2021 Ad Age A-List and Creativity Awards under regular pricing, which expires tonight at 11:59 p.m. EST. After that, the price goes up by $150 until the final deadline March 2. Ad Age A-List winners will be announced in our May 24, 2021 issue. A shortlist of Creativity finalists will be also released in May, with winner announcements following in June 2021.
Holiday boosts Google: Google parent Alphabet has reported quarterly sales that beat Wall Street estimates, buoyed by heavy digital advertising spending during the holiday shopping quarter. Shares jumped about 7% in extended trading.
PlayStation booms: Sony shipped 4.5 million PlayStation 5 units worldwide in 2020, reports The Verge, and its overall gaming business performed much better than a year ago as people turned to videogames during the pandemic.
‘Night of Lowemance’: Home improvement retailer Lowe’s, better known for its hammers, sheetrock and gardening tools, wants to be a romance destination this Feb.14, writes Ad Age’s Adrianne Pasquarelli. It’s offering couples across the country a chance at a special dinner, toast and splash painting session in select stores in a campaign called “Night of Lowemance.”
That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call, thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter:@adage. From CMO Strategy to the Ad Age Datacenter Weekly, we’ve got newsletters galore. See them all here.
Subscribers make the difference. Individual, group and corporate subscriptions are available—including access to our Ad Age Datacenter. Find options at AdAge.com/membership.