Amazon Delays Their Cashless Store, Plus Google Is On The Hot Seat Over Ad Placement

Enjoy your March 28th hand-crafted Brew!


“I am the alpha in this relationship” — Elon Musk, to his second wife Justine as they danced at their wedding reception. This is just one great snippet of Vanity Fair’s deep dive into the tech world’s favorite superhero and his massive push to bring artificial intelligence to the masses.

Market Snapshot

  • After brief stutters as the failed Republican healthcare bill subsided, markets finished only slightly negative as investors shifted focus towards tax reform. Yesterday marked the eighth straight negative session for the Dow, its longest streak since 2011
  • Although shares of European stocks finished lower, the value of the sterling against the dollar jumped almost 1% as the aforementioned failure lowered expectations of Trump’s other campaign promises coming true

Google Still on the Hot Seat…

…And in the midst of a major reputational crisis. At least 250 companies—starting with The Guardian—have reported that their ads on YouTube or other Google properties were placed next to extremist videos. This is a big deal for Google, which is set to make $72 billion from advertising (or 31% of total global ad spend) in 2017.

Tell me more

In early February, the Times of London published an internal investigation into several UK brands’ advertisements that had been placed alongside “radical” YouTube videos. Then, on March 17, French advertising powerhouse Havas pulled all UK advertising from YouTube. This included ad spend for companies like Audi, Dominos and Hyundai. But the pain train continued as 250 brands (including L’Oreal and McDonald’s) followed suit.

Oh, it gets worse

On March 21, the gossip fairy paid Google a visit. After the company (and its European head) issued a formal apology and promised to fix things, word spread to the U.S, when Johnson & Johnson and AT&T pulled ads from YouTube globally. This week, the losses continued, as Fortune 500 companies like General Motors and Walmart joined the party, while ad agencies representing the brands have started to say “sorry’s not enough.” They want discounts, and here’s why:

↑ ad targeting = ↓ chance of placement next to extremist videos


↑ ad targeting = ↑ cost of advertising

So, if brands now need to pay more to avoid placement next to hateful videos, ad agencies argue that Google should be fronting that cost (i.e. through discounts). As it continues its quest for global domination, Alphabet would be wise to mind these concerns. The world saw last week with #DeleteUber that no company is safe in the face of the internet’s wrath.

Watch Out, Politicians…

…Facebook (-0.01%) is launching a new “Town Hall” feature. Zuck & Co. are taking another stab at politics by launching a nonpartisan service called Town Hall. The feature not only allows you to easily find and follow your elected officials (even local ones), but it also sends out election reminders and urges you to “share your thoughts directly” with representatives.

Amazon Delays Cashless Convenience Store…

…After realizing that there may be some pressing issues to solve. To be exact, if there are more than 20 people in the store, the system can start to malfunction. Amazon Go was supposed to allow Seattle customers to scan their phones upon entry and leave without having to stop to check out. Not good considering the masses of people expected to try the new concept.

Location Just Got A Little More Accessible

…And you can cue the privacy concerns. Facebook Messenger and Google Maps have both announced new live location features, enabling users to share your location with friends and family in real time. “I’m on my way” just got real. Facebook’s lasts up to an hour, while Google’s can last indefinitely. So does Google expect privacy complaints? Not a ton. Services like this have been around for some time, notably Apple’s “Find my Friends,” but never for the purpose of day-to-day interactions.

What Else is Happening…

  • “Fearless girl,” the feminist statue standing up to Wall Street’s Charging Bull, received so much love that she will be sticking around for another year
  • Wells Fargo will let customers withdraw money using only their phone and no debit card
  • U.S. airlines flew a record number of passengers last year
  • Uber’s self-driving crash isn’t setting it back—Its cars returned to San Francisco streets on Monday

Economic Calendar

  • Monday: Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey (-)
  • Tuesday: Redbook, State Street Investor Confidence Index; Carnival Corp, Dave & Buster’s, McCormick Earnings
  • Wednesday: Pending Home Sales Index
  • Thursday: GDP, Jobless Claims, Farm Prices, Fed Balance Sheet, Money Supply
  • Friday: Baker-Hughes Oil Rig Count, Consumer Sentiment

Water Cooler

Bye Bye Burnout

Johnson & Johnson (+0.26%) thinks it has found the solution to executive burnout, and it’s not cheap. The consumer pharmaceuticals giant plans to market the ‘Premier Executive Leadership’ program to other Fortune 100 companies at $100,000 a pop.

  • Why are companies paying so much to keep their leaders happy? Because losing a chief executive costs U.S. companies an average of $1.8 billion in stock value.
  • Outside of the C-suite, companies large and small are trying anything and everything to make work more fun: nap rooms, on-site gyms, free food and beer, and plenty of other perks
  • What are your favorite ways to de-stress? Let us know and we’ll feature the best in an upcoming wellness issue.

The Breakroom

Interview Question of the Day

How is game theory related to the Nash equilibrium? (Answer)

Productivity Tool of the Day

Keepa is a Chrome extension that lets you see the price history of any item on Amazon. Why do we think Keepa is interesting? It provides a glimpse into the stock market-esque trading that happens behind each product, where third party vendors fight for the coveted “Buy Box” as your default seller.

Closing Thoughts

United Airlines (+0.65%) had a PR nightmare last weekend after a gate agent refused to allow a pair of 10-year-old girls to fly because of their leggings. The story spread like wildfire, with United sticking to their guns. The Chicago-based airline says the family was flying on non-revenue tickets—given to employees and their families—which come with a dress code.

Our take: We understand policy is policy, but these weren’t rowdy adults, and the girls’ father was allowed to fly in shorts. United should have let the girls fly, and their response only made things worse. Do you agree? Respond and let us know!

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