A confession: I’m one of those misfits who watches the Super Bowl as much for the ads as for the football. That’s partly because I enjoy the great clash of creative talent competing to keep viewers in their seats during timeouts. Who can ever wipe from their brain the image of Betty White being tackled in a mud pit? (For a look at the best 25 Super Bowl ads of all time, check here.)
But I also like the ads because seeing who is willing to spend over $4 million for a 30-second spot says something broader about the state of business and the economy. Apple’s iconic 1984 ad signaled the beginning of an era. MicroStrategy’s 2000 ad signaled the end of another.
So what did we learn in last night’s contest? There was an excess of robots and voice assistants…but none rose above the rest. The robo-baby was creepy beyond belief; the advertiser can only hope no one remembers who they were, although I do. And Amazon’s Alexa ad made me want to unplug my Echo.
Top prize went to the NFL, whose 100th anniversary dinner turned into all-star melee. Given the league’s PR problems, they should get credit for creating such an uninhibited romp.
No. 2 was the Hyundai elevator commercial, starring Jason Bateman, which made me want to go out and buy one.
Best tug-on-your-heartstrings was a Google ad: “How are you?” “Thank you” and “I love you” are apparently the most translated phrases.
And best celebrity ad? Bubly’s ad with a confused Michael Buble.
Honorable mention goes to Expensify (Who knew an expense accounting app could compete for Super Bowl gold?); Bud Light, which teamed up with Game of Thrones for an epic ad series (but do Bud Light drinkers really care that their beer isn’t made with corn syrup?); and Serena Williams (although when the ad was over, I still didn’t know what Bumble was.).
And the worst of the night was Cure Insurance, with its screw-in-your-head—literally—ad. Watch it here.
By the way, New England won. More news below.
Nissan and Brexit
In one of the biggest blows yet to stem from the impending Brexit, Nissan has decided to make its new X-Trail SUV exclusively in Japan, rather than extending production to the U.K. The automaker had previously promised to build the vehicle in the U.K., but it now says Brexit uncertainty is making it hard to “plan for the future.” Reminder: Sunderland, where Nissan’s plant employs 7,000 people, voted 61% in favor of leaving the EU. Fortune
Sony’s shares fell 8% today following a downward revision of its sales and operating revenue forecast, and amid concerns about its portfolio. Constellation Research’s Ray Wang told CNBC that Sony is playing in “highly competitive areas with declining unit sales and margin.” CNBC
President Trump says it’s time to “get rid” of the Mueller probe into his campaign, and he won’t commit to making its findings public. Yet. “It depends. I have no idea what it’s going to say,” he said. Regarding Venezuela, the president said the use of military force was “an option” and U.S. troops should stay in Iraq to “keep an eye” on Iran and other areas. Iraq’s president, incidentally, said the U.S. has not asked permission for that. New York Times
U.S. officials have reportedly visited at least 20 German firms that trade with Iran, warning them to slow down their operations there. Some firms got a “friendly pitch about their importance to the U.S.-German trade relationship.” Others got threats. The U.S. Embassy in Berlin calls this a “maximum economic pressure campaign,” while German industry representatives see it as not what diplomats are supposed to be doing in their host country. Washington Post
Around the Water Cooler
Fancy leasing IKEA furniture? The flatpack giant hopes so. Inter IKEA CEO Torbjörn Lööf told the Financial Times that the company would “work together with partners so you can actually lease your furniture. When that leasing period is over, you hand it back and you might lease something else… Instead of throwing those away, we refurbish them a little and we could sell them, prolonging the lifecycle of the products.” FT
Australia’s corporate regulators will be getting more oversight, thanks to a report into dodgy dealings in the financial sector. The report suggested prosecutions for financial misconduct—mis-selling, overcharging and so on—at banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. BBC
Electric cars have been struggling with the cold snap, with the weather draining their batteries. Chevy’s Bolt and Nissan’s Leaf have been falling victim to this syndrome, as has Tesla’s Model 3, which also has another issue: the design of the car’s door handles makes it pretty tough to open when ice is involved. Fortune
Bloomberg‘s Leonid Bershidsky had a chat with Mischael Modrikamen, Steve Bannon’s partner in running The Movement. What’s The Movement? Not a plan to unite Europe’s right-wing populists, Modrikamen now claims, contrary to… well, everything reported about it previously. Apparently it’s more of a Davos for populists, Bershidsky says, with Modrikamen in the Klaus Schwab role. Bloomberg