What the Super Bowl reveals about the state of advertising now

Hi and welcome to this weekly edition of Insider Advertising, where we track the big stories in media and advertising.

I'm Lucia Moses, deputy editor, and here's what's going on:

  • Super Bowl takeaways
  • Cision confusion
  • A MoviePass exec comeback

Remember you can sign up to get this newsletter daily here. 

What the Super Bowl reveals

The developing Super Bowl advertiser lineup speaks to lot of what's going on in advertising right now:

  • Perennial brands are pulling back on advertising during the game this year, notably brands like Pepsi and Coca-Cola that have had a hard year as the virus puts an end to big social gatherings and live events.
  • The absence of some of the big usuals comes as advertisers are dealing with the risk of trying to strike the right tone in a time of political and cultural division and health crisis. (Of course, it could be that the longstanding argument that the millions spent on the ads just aren't worth it is gaining steam.)

The list of current advertisers includes companies have been thriving in the pandemic, like food-delivery apps and fast-food chains that are taking advantage of online ordering.

With many topics off-limits for ads, the Super Bowl also highlights the way brands are tying themselves to issues to win over consumers who increasingly care about what companies stand for.

  • Anheuser-Busch said it's directing the $1 million it would have spent on a dedicated Bud ad to coronavirus vaccination awareness efforts while Chipotle is using its first Super Bowl spot to promote its environmental initiatives.

Confusion at Cision

Cision is the biggest player in the $4.1 billion PR software space, with clients like Edelman and Google and a reputation for charging top prices.

Since Cision was acquired by Platinum Equity in January 2020, it's shifted sales strategies, tried to sell its biggest property, Trendkite, and sought to merge with its top rival, Meltwater, Patrick Coffee and Sean Czarnecki report. Most recently, it just laid off staff after a string of top execs left.

Now, insiders are wondering what's next for the company and if their jobs are secure.

From Patrick and Sean's reporting:

Platinum's goal was to integrate the 4,000-person company's 12 acquisitions and use its position to dominate the industry, former employees said. 

But current and former Cision employees say there's been a lack of communication from leadership since the Platinum acquisition, leading to confusion across the workforce.

"It is not a very transparent organization around changes and layoffs," said a source.

Read their full story here: Insiders at PR software giant Cision are wondering what's next after layoffs and an exodus of top execs

Blast from the MoviePass

Ted Farnsworth, the former chairman of MoviePass, is back.

He's cofounder of a new venture called Zash that's looking for media, entertainment, and content-focused technology companies to invest in.

Prospective partners might be interested in a refresher on MoviePass, which burned hundreds of millions of dollars before going bankrupt. Farnsworth also has a long history in penny stocks.

Read the rest here: The exec who oversaw MoviePass as it spiraled into bankruptcy is back with a new publicly traded venture — a month after he was part of an $8 million settlement with investors

Other stories we're reading:

  • CBS suspends top TV station executives after L.A. Times investigation (LA Times)
  • Meet 3 influencers who have already made over $1 million from Snapchat's TikTok competitor that launched in November (Business Insider)
  • Barstool Sports' CEO says TikTok has fueled recent audience growth and she's looking at OnlyFans as another potential platform to expand the brand (Business Insider)
  • Spotify tests audiobooks with 'Frankenstein,' 'Jane Eyre' and other literary classics (Exclusive) (The Hollywood Reporter)
  • Twitter acquiring newsletter publishing company Revue (Axios)

Thanks for reading, and see you here next week.

— Lucia

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