What In the World—Week of March 13

Maximum Effort promotes Autodesk during Oscars

Sunday’s Oscar telecast featured a stirring black-and-white tribute to a “world-maker” and “dreammaker” named Otto Desć. It played out over the course of three videos featuring interviews with actor-director Elizabeth Banks, actor Ron Perlman, and cinematographer Mandy Walker—who called the mythical figure’s grasp of technology “awe-inspiring.”

The videos turned out to be a three-part ad for the software technology product Autodesk that was developed by Ryan Reynolds’ agency Maximum Effort and Jimmy Kimmel’s creative lab, Kimmelot.

“Maximum Effort loves playing with the cultural landscape, and the Oscars are a major cultural event,” said Reynolds in a release. “Autodesk has been a secret weapon for Hollywood’s artists for decades, and what better way to highlight that than to create a fake man of vaguely Germanic descent to receive an award that doesn’t exist?”

Juul reaches $23.8 million settlement with Chicago

E-cigarette maker Juul Labs has reached a $23.8 million settlement with the city of Chicago over claims that it deceptively marketed and sold vaping products to underage users.

According to Reuters, the company is facing thousands of similar lawsuits all across the U.S. for its contribution to rising youth tobacco use. Juul has denied any wrongdoing and liability “in connection with the design, manufacture, production, advertisement, marketing, distribution, sale, use, and performance of its products.”

Juul said that the settlement is another step in its commitment to resolve past issues and migrate adult smokers away from traditional cigarettes.

The trouble with Twitter

Twitter has already encountered six major outages in the first 10 weeks of 2023 according to internet watchdog NetBlocks, compared with just nine throughout all of 2022.

According to CNN, users have recently complained about “unblocking or unfollowing people at random, old tweets resurfacing to the top of feeds, video streaming issues, faulty links, and deleted drafts.” CNN reported that new owner Elon Musk’s continued attempts to cut costs—including hacking staff from 7,500 to less than 2,000—is making the social media platform less viable.

“When you lump it in with some other issues that are going on, it becomes more of a reason to potentially steer away from giving ad dollars to Twitter,” said Angelo Zino, senior equity analyst with CFRA research.

S.V.B. collapse harms climate tech companies

Companies working to develop solutions for the climate crisis were among the hardest-hit by this weekend’s collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, says The New York Times.

The country’s 16th largest bank, with about $200 billion in assets as of January and a reputation for working with start-ups other banks wouldn’t go near, S.V.B., is the largest bank to fail since the 2008 economic crisis.

According to the Times, S.V.B. was working with more than 1,550 technology companies creating solar, hydrogen and battery storage projects, issuing them billions in loans. Kiran Bhatraju, CEO of the community solar manager Arcada, said that S.V.B. was “in many ways a climate bank,” and said there would be considerable “collateral damage” to the climate sector.

S.V.B.’s collapse could significantly undermine a “fast and growing part” of the VC sector, which invested more than $28 billion in climate technology start-ups last year.

Vinyl sales outpaced CDs for the first time since 1987: RIAA

The vinyl resurgence has been going on for a few years now, but last year finally saw unit sales outpace those of CDs in the U.S. for the first time since 1987, according to the Recording Industry Association of America’s recent year-end report. Vinyl sales totalled 41 million units last year, compared to 33 million units for CDs.

The bulk of the music industry’s revenues, 84%, came from streaming—broadly defined as paid subscriptions, ad-supported services, digital and customized radio, social media platforms, digital fitness apps and others—which generated a record $13.3 billion of the $15.9 billion in total revenues. There are now 92 million paid music subscribers in the U.S., up from 46.9 million in 2018.

Chris Powell