What in the World—Week of February 13

Pete Davidson campaign pays off for Taco Bell
Taco Bell parent company Yum says advertising starring former Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson contributed to a strong Q4 last year. Davidson appeared in a campaign last fall in which he apologized for some of the elaborate breakfast menu items Taco Bell had sold in the past (like the “naked egg taco”), and promised the chain would go back to basics. The focus on various handheld items with standard breakfast ingredient combinations like eggs, sausage and cheese paid off.

“Taco Bell brought in Pete Davidson to help drive consumer buzz for breakfast,” said Yum chief executive David Gibbs. “This led to 9% transaction growth” for the quarter ended Dec. 31. Total Taco Bell sales were up 14% in the quarter. “We honestly over-innovated in breakfast,” Sean Tresvant, Taco Bell’s chief brand officer, told CNN last year. “When you look at today’s consumer and the [fast-food] breakfast business, it’s about familiarity and it’s about comfort.”

Adidas hit hard by Kanye breakup
Adidas said its break-up with hip hop star Kanye West late last year has had a significant impact on revenue and profit, and it’s still unsure about what to do with its huge inventory of unsold Yeezy products. Adidas parted ways with West, now known professionally as Ye, after the star made increasingly troubling antisemitic comments. The decision to stop selling West’s Yeezy brand line could have a €1.2 billion impact on full-year sales, and €500 million on profit, “an even greater loss than Adidas had calculated just four months ago,” reported The New York Times.

“The loss may be even greater if the company decides not to ‘repurpose’ any of its unsold Yeezy merchandise,” said NPR. “One option for Adidas is to remove Yeezy-identifying labels and attempt to resell its inventory at its own stores and its retail partners for a discount,” it said, though that would be tricky because of the unique Yeezy designs. It could also sell the merchandise at a deep discount in smaller and developing markets, though even there it would likely want to go through the labour-intensive process of removing the Yeezy labels.

India’s failed effort to rebrand Valentine’s Day
India’s government appears to have given up on “Cow Hug Day.” Announced early last week, the campaign was seen as an effort to push back against the “dazzle of western civilization” and mass marketing efforts to make Valentine’s Day a holiday in the country. Feb. 14 was declared Cow Hug Day in the country, where much of the population considers the animals sacred.

Valentine’s Day has become increasingly popular among young people in India as the economy has opened up in the last decade, reports The Guardian. “But as a more muscular form of Hindu nationalist politics has taken hold in India, westernized holidays and traditions such as Valentine’s Day have increasingly drawn a backlash for promoting ‘corrupt’ values,” it said. However, by the end of the week, the Animal Welfare Board of India retracted the proposal after drawing widespread criticism and ridicule.

Artist loses legal fight over Birkin NFTs
Luxury giant Hermes won a legal fight in New York last week that could set a precedent for the use of brands and NFTs. Mason Rothschild created non-fungible tokens based on Birkin handbags, but the jury rejected the claim that the NFTs constitute works of art “commenting on the market for luxury goods,” reported the BBC. “A lawyer representing Mr. Rothschild said it was a ‘terrible day for artists and the First Amendment,’” it said.

NFTs exploded into the digital zeitgeist in 2021, with the digital files created using blockchain technology so they can’t be duplicated. Rothschild said his NFTs were works of art similar to Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup cans, but the jury concluded they were being sold as consumer products. “Hermes said Mr. Rothschild was a ‘digital speculator’ who created his images of the bag as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme,” said the BBC, adding that more than $1 million (£828,000) worth of MetaBirkins had been sold since December 2021.

Tubi is this year’s viral Super Bowl spot
Last year it was Coinbase’s bouncing QR code that became the Super Bowl’s viral sensation. This year, it’s streaming service Tubi’s “Interface Interruption” that generated considerable online reaction and post-game chatter.

The 15-second ad from New York’s Mischief @ No Fixed Address, tricked viewers by opening on FOX Sports analysts Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen talking about the game, only to be interrupted by Tubi’s on-screen interface making it appear as though viewers had sat on their remote and were accidentaly scrolling through the service’s library, looking for something to watch (the giveaway was that it settled on the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Nobody watches that one). Several non-advertising media outlets, including The New York PostVariety, Today, The Hollywood Reporter and TMZ covered the ad.

David Brown