Opportunity, Anger, and Fear

Today’s Highlights: The PPP rules shift again. Google won’t support personal tracking ads. And are sick days a thing of the past?

MARKETING

Google says its advertising tools will no longer support the tracking of individual users: “Advertisers use data harvested from people’s browsing across the web to figure out whom to serve an ad to, and whether that person then went on to buy the advertised product. After Google’s change, they won’t be able to get as detailed a picture of either. ... Advertisers will have to decide whether they are comfortable with the new Google approach to targeting ads, which will be less precise. ‘When you’re able to target precisely to individuals your effectiveness is very high,’ said Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communication officer at Mastercard. ‘When you’re doing it to cohorts it’s bound to be lesser than the individual, but we don’t know how much less at this point in time.’”

  • “Ad executives said companies that have a lot of first-party data—information they have gathered on their own customers, such as through apps or loyalty card programs—will be in a stronger position to carry out precise digital ad campaigns.” READ MORE

Of course, that doesn’t mean Google won’t still be tracking everyone for its own use: “What Google will stop doing is selling web ads targeted to individual users’ browsing habits, and its Chrome browser will no longer allow cookies that collect that data. …Meanwhile, Google will still track and target users on mobile devices, and it will still target ads to users based on their behavior on its own platforms, which make up the majority of its revenue and won’t be affected by the change. In other words, while the announcement will have huge implications for the digital ad industry, it probably won’t for Google itself.” READ MORE

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

The SBA is still making PPP rule adjustments: “The Small Business Administration on Wednesday released new guidance on the changes to the Paycheck Protection Program. It revamped the formula for calculating loans to sole proprietors and some other businesses, making the program more attractive to the smallest firms. Justin Burgess of Deco-Dence Gallery & Studio, a dealer of art deco furniture and a custom-furniture maker in Dallas, had initially decided not to apply for a second PPP loan this year after receiving $3,000 in 2020. ‘It was just a pittance,’ said Mr. Burgess, whose sales have fallen by roughly 50% during the pandemic. ‘It was a lot of work for very little return.’”

  • “The new approach should ‘make it much more advantageous,’ said Mr. Burgess, who now plans to apply for a second loan.”

  • “The program will likely finish with money left on the table, said Tony Wilkinson, chief executive of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, a trade group.” READ MORE

Ami Kassar says the latest changes are creating opportunity, anger, and fear: “The smallest of businesses – the self-employed - can now get substantially more relief. Their PPP amount will now be based upon their income, instead of their profits.  While this will cause confusion in the field as banks race to put new processes in place, it will help many.  This is the opportunity.”

  • “Many businesses that have already gotten their second round of PPP are not happy with this news. There is no process or system for them to adjust their loans and reapply for the new amounts.”

  • “The fear is for those who applied for PPP loans of greater than $150K. Under the new rules, certain borrowers will have to retroactively prove the necessity.  More SBA loan reviews and audits are in the future.” READ MORE

STARTUPS

A new business will help creators build a business on Clubhouse: “Audio Collective is one outgrowth of the audio boom. The company, which announced its formation on Thursday, will offer event planning, brand consulting, and support and community for creators working in the field. Its founders also plan to lobby Clubhouse for stronger moderation policies, better insights and performance metrics, and monetization tools. The company’s 40 founding members are creators themselves; they host talk shows, meet-ups, discussion groups and other high-profile events and command many millions of followers. Unlike podcasters, who produce edited shows, they perform for a live, interactive audience, much like streamers.”

  • “‘Never before have so many brands, entrepreneurs, influencers and regular folks had instant access to their most devoted audience,’ said Adam Davidson, the author of  The Passion Economy.” READ MORE

THE COVID ECONOMY

Gov. Abbott’s decision to lift the mask mandate and other restrictions has left small businesses in Texas scrambling: “As small-business owners and managers across Texas went to work Wednesday morning, they faced yet another 2021 headache: deal with losing business from customers who don’t want to wear face masks during the pandemic or from patrons who will only frequent places that require them. The dilemma was abruptly thrust upon them after Gov. Greg Abbott announced yesterday afternoon that the state will lift its mask mandate and allow all businesses to operate at 100 percent capacity starting March 10. Some businesses barely had an opportunity to reopen after last month’s deadly winter storm and power outage crisis before hearing about this massive change to the state’s Covid-19 safety protocols.”

  • “At least one business owner, Macy Moore of HopFusion Ale Works in Fort Worth, said Wednesday on CNN that he had not slept since Abbott’s announcement because he’s so worried about the health and safety of his staff.”

  • “Others, like Anne Ng of Bakery Lorraine in San Antonio, have decided to keep mask requirements in place for staff and customers regardless of what Abbott and the state government say.”

  • “‘By repealing the mandate, the government is putting everyone at risk, and foodservice workers are sadly at the front lines in facing potential hostility from folks who will refuse to respect our mask policy,’ Ng said. ‘We don’t deserve that.’” READ MORE

THE 21 HATS CONVERSATION

Will restaurants ever be the same? Should they? On Tuesday at 3 ET, I’ll host a webinar conversation on the future of restaurants. Even in good times, restaurants are a tough business. Margins are thin, and the pay structure is challenging at best. And these have not been good times. Is this an opportunity to re-think the business model? The conversation will feature Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Brian Canlis of Canlis in Seattle; and Carol Downs who founded and ran Bella Luna & the Milky Way for more than 25 years in Boston -- until the pandemic forced it to close permanently.”

Register Here

HUMAN RESOURCES

Are sick days a thing of the past? “Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, remote work had started to chip away at sick days. Slack messages saying ‘I’ve got a cold brewing, so I’ll work from home today’ were already replacing ‘Hey, boss [cough, cough], I need a sick day’ phone calls. A 2014 Stanford University study found that call center employees who worked from home put in more days, because they stayed on the job at times they would have been too ill to come to the office. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year found that people with flu symptoms were more likely to work if they had the option to do so from home. ‘When everything happens in the same place, you no longer have that geographic boundary’ between work and home, says Barbara Larson, a business professor at Northeastern University.”

  • “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says 1 in 4 companies adopted more generous sick leave policies last spring as the coronavirus spread.”

  • “But instead of taking advantage of those rules, many ailing employees simply continued to toil away at a zombie pace from the couch.”

  • “A OnePoll survey for a cold remedy company found that half of the 2,000 respondents had quietly taken partial sick days during the pandemic—without telling their boss—and 7 in 10 said they’d worked while feeling under the weather.” READ MORE

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RETAIL

Mall values have plunged 60 percent: “That average drop -- which reflects the change in value since the debt was originated years ago -- may underestimate losses when the properties come up for sale because so much retail real estate is in distress. And few buyers are willing to take risks on aging shopping centers as e-commerce continues to grab market share. ‘It’s an eye-popping decline,’ Gwen Roush, an analyst with DBRS Morningstar rating service who tracks commercial real estate, said in an interview. ‘When we’re forecasting a loss on these malls, we’re even further haircutting that value.’”

  • “The biggest owners, such as Simon Property Group Inc., Brookfield Asset Management Inc. and Starwood Capital Group, have started to triage properties, walking away from money-losers while reinvesting in viable locations.”

  • “Only about half of the 1,100 U.S. indoor malls have a good chance of survival, according to Floris van Dijkum, a real estate analyst with Compass Point Research & Trading.” READ MORE

MANUFACTURING

Walmart says it will invest $350 billion in products made grown or assembled in the U.S.: “The world’s largest retailer said Wednesday it is committing to source a wide range of American-made products, including textiles, plastics, small electrical appliances, food processing, and pharmaceutical and medical supplies. The announcement follows a similar commitment from 2013, when it said it would invest $250 billion in products made (or grown or assembled) domestically. That effort later came under scrutiny after consumer advocacy groups reported what they called misleading labels on Walmart.com to the Federal Trade Commission.”

  • “Truth in Advertising, a consumer advocacy nonprofit group, has repeatedly taken issue with Walmart’s labeling of U.S.-made goods as deceptive and misleading.” READ MORE

THE MORNING REPORT PODCAST

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THE 21 HATS PODCAST

Episode 51: Chicago, New York, or Atlanta? A year ago, Dana White was questioning whether her business could survive the pandemic. This week, she says she’s looking seriously at expanding to another city: “I'd like to make a decision by the end of March, and I'd like to be opening or in the process of opening by this fall. I'm waiting to see how the vaccine does.” Dana also talks about her experience with venture capitalists who seem to be telling her, “We’ll be happy to give you money—as soon as you don’t really need it.”