What in the World—Week of February 7

Build-A-Bear launches ‘…After Dark’ products
Build-a-Bear is adding an ursine twist to Valentine’s Day. The cuddly toy company is going after an adult audience with a line of Valentine’s Day products called Build-A-Bear After Dark. A Facebook post promoting the line features a stuffed lion lothario, clad in a robe and reclining on a fur rug, with a single rose and two glasses of champagne. “Who said stuffed animals were just for the kids?” says the introductory copy on the company’s website. The products line is more playful than R-rated however, with cuddly stuffed toys holding bottles of champagne and glasses with T-shirts variously reading “It’s wine o’clock somewhere” and “Rosé over Roses.”

Amazon’s ad business is bigger than YouTube
Amazon has finally pulled back the curtain on its advertising business and, not surprisingly, it’s enormous. Investors had been forced to guess at the size of Amazon’s advertising revenue, which had previously been reported in the catch-all “other” category. But the online retail giant broke out its ad revenues in last week’s earnings report, and the $31.2 billion—a 32% increase from 2020—is not only bigger than the entire global newspaper industry, but also surpasses YouTube. “It isn’t bad for the company founded by Jeff Bezos—which, until now, viewed advertising as such a non-core part of its operations that it didn’t bother reporting its results separately,” said Barrons, which called Amazon “an increasingly powerful player” in the online advertising space. Amazon sold $9.7 billion worth of advertising in the fourth quarter alone, a 33% increase from the year before.

MeUndies faces NFT backlash
There’s growing consumer resentment of brands’ continued attempts to latch on to the NFT trend, with critics labelling the tech phenomenon an “obvious grift” and “nonsense.” The latest to experience consumer backlash is DTC underwear brand MeUndies, which last week announced that it had joined the Bored Ape Yacht Club—arguably the world’s most famous NFTs, championed by owners like Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon. NFTs have been criticized for using an economic model that has been compared to a pyramid scheme, and requiring vast amounts of energy to produce. Critics say the latter in particular is at odds with MeUndies’ stated commitment to sustainability. According to the fashion blog Glossy, a tweet providing detailed instructions on how to unsubscribe from MeUndies garnered more than 7,000 likes, compared to 3,000 for the original post announcing the NFT.

Spotify responds to new Joe Rogan controversy
Joe Rogan’s racism has led Spotify CEO Daniel Ek to commit to a $100-million investment in music and audio content “from historically marginalized” groups, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Ek’s promise came in a letter to staff after video content of Rogan making derogatory comments toward Black people and using the n-word were resurfaced by musician India.Arie last week. Spotify has removed dozens of Rogan episodes, but Ek said that while he strongly condemns the podcaster’s racist comments, Spotify remains committed to Rogan—who has a $100-million deal with the audio streamer. “I want to make one point very clear—I do not believe that silencing Joe is the answer,” Ek wrote. “We should have clear lines around content and take action when they are crossed, but canceling voices is a slippery slope.” Rogan also apologized over the weekend—his second apology in a week after Neil Young pulled his music from Spotify in protest of Rogan spreading misinformation related to Covid and vaccines.

Could Nike or Amazon buy Peloton?
While it soared during the early months of the pandemic, Peloton has been struggling in recent months and could be acquired. According to reports, both Amazon and Nike are kicking the tires. The possible sale is also being recommended by Peloton investor Blackwells Capital, which wants CEO John Foley fired, said Reuters. Blackwells also called for the board to sell Peloton to a company like Walt Disney, Apple, or Sony. In mid-January, Peloton announced it would halt production of its products for up to two months. “Peloton has essentially guessed wrong about how many people would be buying its products, after so much demand was pulled forward during the coronavirus pandemic,” reported CNBC. “It’s now left with thousands of cycles and treadmills sitting in warehouses or on cargo ships, and it needs to reset its inventory levels.”

David Brown