Feb 4, 2019

Super Bowl ads highlight Big Tech debate

Screenshot via TurboTax

This year's Super Bowl ads highlighted how torn society is over the promise of Big Tech. Some spots showed dystopian fears surrounding robots and automation, while others highlighted ways new technologies can improve health care, employment and connectivity.

Why it matters: The conflicting messages underscore the debate happening right now about whether automation and artificial intelligence will displace humanity or save it.

  • On one side, ads from TurboTax, Michelob Ultra and Pringles showed ways robots and voice assistants can't compete with human intelligence and emotion. Even Amazon ran a lengthy ad poking fun at the hiccups from its Alexa voice assistant.
  • On the other, tech companies like Google and Microsoft tried to showcase their human side with ads highlighting ways their companies aid veterans and children with disabilities.

There was also an irony in the millions of dollars spent on ads by streaming video companies. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube TV all purchased spots Sunday, serving as a reminder that traditional television — and particularly the Super Bowl — is still considered the top destination for high-level branding.

Another major theme this year was the power of female protagonists. Bumble, Toyota, Wix, Amazon Prime and Hulu all ran ads showing the power of women in sports, in the workplace, and in society.

Some companies got dinged on social media for their ads:

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev drew ire from corn advocates and farmers for a series of ads that dismissed using corn syrup in beer.
  • Verizon drew some online criticism for its ad lauding first responders, which didn't mention that the company throttled data for first responders in California in August.
  • T-Mobile took Twitter heat for ripping off an old internet meme.

Noticeably absent from the game this year was Coca-Cola, despite the fact that the Super Bowl took place in its backyard. The Atlanta-based beverage company ran a simple animated ad before kickoff, but let Pepsi take the spotlight this year with several spots and its usual half-time show.

Go deeper: Pricing plateaus for this year's Super Bowl ads

Go deeper

Cuomo says New York is "literally going day-to-day with our supplies"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference on Sunday that New York is struggling to maintain medical supplies while combatting the novel coronavirus — operating "literally" on a "day-to-day" basis.

Why it matters: New York City has become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, facing mass quarantines and stay-at-home orders. Cuomo said Saturday that New York reported 630 new deaths in 24 hours — an "all-time increase" that beat the previous day's record of 562 deaths.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 1,225,360 — Total deaths: 66,542 — Total recoveries: 252,615Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 11 a.m. ET: 312,249 — Total deaths: 8,503 — Total recoveries: 15,021Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. Surgeon general says this week will be "our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11 moment."
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August." Biden says DNC may have to hold virtual convention.
  5. States updates: The Louisiana governor warned that his state is set to run out of ventilators in four days. Illinois governor claims Trump doesn't understand the word "federal."
  6. Oil latest: Monday meeting among oil-producing countries to discuss supply curbs is reportedly being delayed amid tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
  7. Work update: Employees still going to work are often facing temperature checks, distanced work stations, protective devices and mass absences.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Illinois governor: "The president does not understand the word 'federal'"

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that President Trump's comments about the federal government's stockpile of medical equipment suggest he "does not understand the word 'federal.'"

Why it matters: White House adviser Jared Kushner argued at a press briefing last week that the "notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile; it’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use."