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How marketing changed during the pandemic

September 24, 2021, 9:34 AM UTC

Good morning.

Everything changed during the pandemic, and marketing is no exception. In the early days, brands shifted from pushing products to emphasizing purpose in their messaging. As the pandemic wore on, other tricks and trends developed. The Fortune team did a deep dive on marketing in the age of COVID, which you can read this morning here. Some interesting takeaways:

  • After an initial dip in the early days of the pandemic, advertising has soared. WPP reported a 19.3% increase in second quarter revenue this year from a year earlier—the biggest jump ever.
  • Digital advertising, in particular, is driving the boom, growing from 48% of media spend in 2019 to 52% in 2020 to a projected 66% by 2024.
  • A game about viruses went, well, viral. It’s best played while drinking Corona.
  • VTubers—or virtual YouTubers—became a thing globally. These are an ever-growing group of live entertainers streaming video games, daily activities, interactions with fans, etc., behind the cloak of digital avatars.
  • Some tech companies turned to low-tech buses and billboards to get attention, as marketing on Facebook and Google lost favor (and got more expensive).
  • COVID fatigue is now setting into advertising. Advertisers are turning away from overt references to the virus—no longer depicting people in masks, for instance—but still making subtle nods to pandemic reality—like avoiding shots of packed stadiums or nightclubs.

Separately this morning, Ray Martinez—the cofounder of EverFi, which is partnering with Fortune on education coverage this year—discusses how software-based financial literacy training can help teenagers protect themselves in a technology-fueled world.

More news below.

Alan Murray



Yesterday was supposedly crunch time for China Evergrande Group, which was scheduled to make an $83.5 million dollar bond interest payment. It doesn't seem to have done so, and it has another interest payment of $47.5 million due next week, but the stricken property giant hasn’t actually said anything, and its bondholders would quite like to know what's going on. Meanwhile, Evergrande's electric-vehicle unit has reportedly missed salary payments, and its share price fell 23% this morning. Reuters

Novavax and COVAX

Novavax and the Serum Institute of India (the world's largest vaccine manufacturer) have asked the World Health Organization to clear Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine for inclusion in the COVAX initiative, which seeks to inoculate the developing world. The filing comes a bit later than Novavax previously signaled. Applications for emergency use authorization in the U.S. and Europe should follow in Q4. Reuters

Novatek arrest

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged the deputy head of Russian natural gas producer Novatek with defrauding the U.S. by allegedly hiding $93 million in offshore accounts. Mark Gvetvay, a U.S. national with a Russian passport, could be behind bars for a long time if convicted over the tax charges. Financial Times

Booze baron

A Chinese court has sentenced Yuan Renguo, who was arrested a couple years ago for taking $17.5 million in bribes, to life in prison. Yuan was until 2018 the chairman of state-owned liquor giant Kweichow Moutai, which makes an elite version of the sorghum-based baijiu drink. Bloomberg


European gigafactories

Mercedes-maker Daimler is taking a one-third stake in a joint venture between Chrysler-maker Stellantis and energy firm TotalEnergies, which is developing and making electric-car batteries. The JV, Automotive Cells Company (ACC), is backed by the French and German governments. Reuters

U.K. fuel

The U.K.'s supply chain crisis now includes fuel, after some BP and Esso-owned Tesco Alliance gas stations had to close because there weren't enough truck drivers to deliver their essential wares from refineries. This is a cross-sectoral problem with several causes that include the pandemic and Brexit. BBC

German millionaires

With Germany's federal election coming up on Sunday, many of the country's millionaires are reportedly shifting their assets into Switzerland. They apparently fear the reintroduction of a wealth tax and tighter inheritance taxes, if the new government turns out to be more leftist than the current one. That is quite possible, but the polling is tight and remember: there will probably be months of coalition talks before the new administration materializes. Reuters

Salvadoran Bitcoin

Two weeks on, what has become of El Salvador's trailblazing move to make Bitcoin legal tender? Don't expect many other countries to follow that trail just yet, as things are not going well. As Fortune's Chris Morris explains, businesses and even some government offices are trying their best to avoid accepting the cryptocurrency, the Bitcoin ATMs often don't work, and the state Bitcoin wallet, Chivo, has a faulty ID verification system that has allowed some accounts to be taken over by hackers. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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