What in the World—Week of January 25

Budweiser sitting out this year’s Super Bowl
The upcoming Super Bowl will feature some familiar faces in Tom Brady, Gronk and the Kansas City Chiefs. One of the event’s marquee advertisers is sitting out this year, however, reasoning that its ad dollars could be better spent elsewhere. On Monday, Budweiser said it will join other brands including Coca-Cola, Hyundai and Pepsi on the sidelines, instead diverting its Super Bowl ad dollars to campaigns relating to COVID-19 vaccinations. According to The Wall Street Journal, it will be the first time since 1983 that Anheuser-Busch’s flagship brand won’t appear in the game (although other AB InBev brands like Bud Light are appearing). Budweiser was well into creative development for the Super Bowl when a vaccine was approved, and its executives decided that its marketing dollars could be better used tackling vaccine hesitation. On Monday, Budweiser released an online video called “Bigger picture” explaining its decision and celebrating Americans’ perseverance during the pandemic.

‘Chumbox’ ad specialist Taboola goes public 
Taboola is going public, and you won’t believe what happens next. The U.S. via Israel company, which specializes in so-called chumbox ads consisting of clickbait images and/or headlines like “37 child actors who grew up to be ugly,” is being publicly listed in a deal valuing it at $2.6 billion. It is part of a growing wave of Wall Street deals in which so-called special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, are created by investors for the purpose of acquiring unspecified privately traded companies. In this case, Taboola is merging with ION Acquisition Corp 1—started last year by Israeli financier Gilad Shany with nearly $259 million—and assuming its stock ticker. “It is a quicker and surer way to bring companies to the public markets, which have helped make SPACS one of the finance industry’s biggest obsessions,” says The New York Times. The deal comes after a proposed merger with Outbrain, Taboola’s arch-rival in the chumbox ad game, fell through last fall.

Will Australians have to start ‘Bing-ing’ things?
Google is threatening to pull out of Australia if it is forced to pay local publishers for use of its news content. A proposed law would require the search giant to form commercial agreements with news organizations or enter forced arbitration. “If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” said Google’s regional director, Mel Silva. But the Australian government did not seem impressed with that claim. “We don’t respond to threats,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia. That’s done in our parliament. It’s done by our government. And that’s how things work here in Australia.”

Italy demands TikTok verify user ages
Italy wants TikTok to do more to verify the age of its users after a 10-year-old girl died while reportedly taking part in a TikTok challenge. The country’s privacy watchdog wants the popular video sharing social app to block the accounts (until at least Feb. 15) of users whose age could not be verified. The ruling comes after the young girl died while taking part in a “blackout challenge,” putting a belt around her neck and holding her breath, reports Reuters. “TikTok was her world. And YouTube. That’s how she spent her time,” the girl’s father told the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Aviva to make WFH permanent
While Canada is still struggling mightily with the coronavirus, the arrival of vaccines will also have non-essential businesses contemplating the end of forced work from home requirements. What happens now that we’ve seen just how much work can be done away from the office? Well, investment firm Aviva said it intends to close U.K. offices and allow staff to work from home even after the pandemic is over. “We are combining office space in some locations and reducing the space in others,” said the company, which employs 16,000 people in the U.K. Staff will be able to work in an office if they prefer, with most expected to spend one day a week in the office. “Our intention is to invest in our sites to provide a more vibrant, inspiring and flexible workspace for our people.” Aviva is not the first to make such a shift, with firms like Twitter and Shopify making similar announcements earlier in the COVID crisis.

David Brown