flocked to the software platform during the pandemic. About 9 percent of U.S. online shopping sales took place on storefronts powered by Shopify as of October, according to research firm eMarketer. That was up from 6 percent the prior year and second only to Amazon’s share of 37 percent.

Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s president, said Google and Shopify were developing new ways for merchants to sell through Google services, such as experiments to allow customers to buy items directly on YouTube and to display what products stores are carrying in Google Maps.

Mr. Ready walked a fine line when it came to Amazon, which is a big buyer of ads on Google, but he made it clear he believed Amazon’s dominance in e-commerce posed a threat to other merchants.

“Nobody wants to live in a world where there is only one place to buy something, and retailers don’t want to be dependent on gatekeepers,” he said in an interview.

Google said it had increased the number of sellers appearing in its results by 80 percent in 2020, with the most significant growth coming from small and midsize businesses. And existing retailers are listing more products.

Overstock.com, a seller of discount furniture and home bedding, said it had paid to list products on Google in the past. But now that listings are free, Overstock is adding low-margin products, too.

“When all shopping starts and stops at Amazon, that’s bad for the industry,” said Jonathan E. Johnson, Overstock’s chief executive. “It’s nice to have another 800-pound tech gorilla in this space.”

BACtrack, a maker of breathalyzers, has more than doubled its advertising spending on Amazon in the last two years because that is where the customers are, it said, while it has spent 6 percent less advertising its products on Google.

“It seems like more and more people are skipping Google and going straight to Amazon,” said Keith Nothacker, the chief executive of BACtrack.

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Addison Rae and the Beauty of 78.5 Million Followers

This is not news to those who are prominent in beauty culture. After all, they’re often famous because of social media, and when they choose to make a beauty line, it’s not just about cashing in — most of the time they feel insecure, and they use cosmetics to help themselves feel better and want to share those to make others feel better too. But this becomes a vicious cycle, and it’s hard to step back.

Michelle Phan, an early influencer and Ipsy co-founder, confused the beauty community when she stopped posting online in 2015. Two years later, she restarted her makeup line, Em Cosmetics, which she bought back from L’Oréal, and sold her stake in Ipsy. “Once, I was a girl with dreams, who eventually became a product, smiling, selling and selling,” she said in a 2017 video explaining her departure. “Who I was on camera and who I was in real life began to feel like strangers.” She added: “My insecurities got the worse of me. I became imprisoned by my own vanity and was never satisfied with how I looked. The life I led online was picture perfect. But in reality, I was carefully curating the image of a life I wanted, not had.”

Working within the system, Rae was trying to address the way that she was also torn apart by a lot of the same concern over her looks that other people had. She even built vulnerability into the branding of her makeup line. Last year, Rae and Item sold a round, orange-colored compact, and when you opened it, it had a mirror with the words “I love you say it back.” This was a riff on a popular meme, a standard-issue message of girlboss empowerment but also an acknowledgment of widespread insecurity that Rae, and the person buying the compact, might feel.

I thought that was sweet, but an intimate relationship with the idol was also what the consumer was demanding. A display of insecurity from Rae, or at least an acknowledgment that Rae might look in the same mirror and need a jolt of confidence the same way the consumer does, may be part of that. “Relatability is the No. 1 thing that makes people click ‘check out,’” Sarah Brown told me.

It was hard to tell whether Rae was truly insecure or simply using a marketing tactic to gain fans. “Everybody is insecure about their bodies, and the more our culture gets visual, the more insecure we’ll all get, and it doesn’t matter how you look objectively one bit,” Widdows, the philosopher, told me. “So it’s not implausible to think even the most beautiful celebrities might also be insecure. In fact, it’s very plausible to think they are. But to say that they suddenly stopped being insecure because they put their own lipstick on, I find much less plausible.”

Still, the psychological flytrap in this kind of rhetoric — “I want you to know your body is perfect even though you’re buying this product to look like me, and I am insecure about my looks” — was powerful, and stars other than Rae were gesturing to it as well. When I asked Camberos, the beauty executive, where he saw beauty culture today and where it was going, he said it was connected to the issue of mental health. Rae told British Glamour that she felt she was in a good place regarding her appearance lately and quoted the saying “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When asked about what she was proudest of, though, Rae said, “Just staying mentally healthy has been a really big accomplishment for me.”

It was a bit chilling to think about linking these two things, a beauty brand and mental health, especially as our era of global pandemic comes to a close and we emerge in the light, blinking, looking to create new idols. In September, Selena Gomez, who has been open about her bipolar disorder, introduced her own line, Rare Beauty. In marketing efforts, the company, which offers soft concealers, foundations and blushers, vowed that “we will use makeup to shape positive conversations around beauty, self-acceptance and mental health.” And shortly before the musician Halsey began promoting her new makeup line in early 2021, she chose to post an old photo of her emaciated body on Instagram, explaining that she suffered from an eating disorder. Kylie, too, recently put a saying from a self-help author on her Instagram — “may the dark thoughts, overthinking, and doubt exit your mind right now,” it read in part — along with a photo of a bathtub and naked legs, slightly covered in suds, against which rested a clear pink bottle from her skin-care line.

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With Fewer Ads on Streaming, Brands Make More Movies

When the N.B.A. shut down its season last year because of the pandemic, one of the first phone calls Chris Paul made was to the Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. Mr. Paul, then a point guard with the Oklahoma Thunder, knew he wanted to chronicle what was going on, and he wanted Mr. Grazer’s help.

“The idea was, basically, film everything that had taken place in that game that night and what was going to come of it,” Mr. Paul said. “We had no clue what would happen next.”

The result was “The Day Sports Stood Still,” a documentary about the shutdown, the N.B.A.’s pandemic bubble and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the league. (Mr. Paul appears in the film and is an executive producer.) It is a portrait of the ways the pandemic convulsed the sports world, but also an example of how Covid-19 has upended the entertainment industry.

The film, which debuts Wednesday on HBO and HBO Max, comes from Mr. Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment and a newer entrant to Hollywood: Waffle Iron Entertainment, Nike’s production entity.

General Electric Theater” television show from 1954 through 1962.

In the past decade, branded filmmaking has only proliferated.

Patagonia funded a feature-length documentary about dams, called “DamNation,” in 2014. Pepsi backed the 2018 movie “Uncle Drew,” which showcased the basketball star Kyrie Irving recreating his septuagenarian character from a popular series of Pepsi Max commercials. The film made $42 million and marked one of the first branded entertainment campaigns to be adapted into a major motion picture. “Gay Chorus Deep South,” a documentary produced by Airbnb, debuted on the festival circuit in 2019. And Apple’s acclaimed “Ted Lasso” began its life as an NBC Sports promotion for its acquisition of the broadcast rights to the English Premier League.

Imagine Entertainment, the production company founded by Mr. Grazer and Ron Howard in 1985, formed Imagine Brands in 2018 to pair companies with filmmakers, hiring Mr. Wilkes and Marc Gilbar, the creator of the “Uncle Drew” Pepsi campaign and an executive producer on the film, to run the group. The division has produced both feature-length documentaries and narrative films with their partners, which have included Unilever, Walmart and Ford.

Imagine is also working with the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. The company, which effectively created soap operas when it began to sponsor serial radio dramas in the 1930s to help promote its soap products, is cofinancing a feature-length film with Imagine called “Mars 2080.” It will be directed by Eliza McNitt and begin production later this year. The film, which is scheduled to be released theatrically by IMAX in 2022 before moving to a streaming service, focuses on a family resettling on Mars.

It grew out of a breakfast in New York in 2019, where Mr. Wilkes, Mr. Howard and Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, discussed technology in the pipeline. The Imagine team later toured Procter & Gamble’s research labs in Cincinnati, seeing examples of its “home of the future” products and meeting its scientists.

Kimberly Doebereiner, the vice president of Procter & Gamble’s future of advertising division, said the company hoped to do more long-form storytelling, like “The Cost of Winning,” the four-part sports documentary its shaving brand Gillette produced. It debuted on HBO in November.

“We want to be more interesting so consumers are leaning into our experiences and we’re creating content that they want to see as opposed to messages that are annoying to them,” she said. “Finding a way to have content that is in places where ads don’t exist is definitely one of the reasons why we’re leaning into this.”

It’s all part of a deliberate shift by brands to try to integrate themselves more fully into consumers’ lives, the way companies like Apple and Amazon have, said Dipanjan Chatterjee, an analyst with Forrester. And they want to do so without commercials, which, he said, have “zero credibility” with consumers.

“If the right story has the right ingredients and it becomes worthwhile for sharing, it doesn’t come across as an intrusive bit of advertising,” Mr. Chatterjee said. “It feels much more like a natural part of our lives.”

Alessandro Uzielli, the head of Ford Motor Company’s global brand and entertainment division, first met with Imagine Brands in early 2018. He was looking for a way to augment Ford’s advertising campaign for its relaunched Bronco with a piece of entertainment that would reach a younger audience. The result was “John Bronco,” a 37-minute long mockumentary directed by Jake Szymanski (“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”) and starring Walton Goggins (“Justified”) as the greatest fictional pitchman of all time.

The short film earned a slot in the Tribeca Film Festival and is now streaming on Hulu. In addition to featuring guest spots from Tim Meadows, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bo Derek, it helped reintroduce the Bronco, a sport utility vehicle that the automaker pulled in the mid-1990s.

“This helped us speak to an audience that we probably weren’t going to speak to on our own,” Mr. Uzielli said.

“It was Imagine’s project, and we didn’t want to cloud their process, to try to make it feel like too much of a sales job,” he added.

Mr. Szymanski, who has directed both feature films and commercials, including ads for the Dodge Durango starring Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” character Ron Burgundy, said Ford allowed him a great deal of creative freedom. “I think they could have tried to impose a much larger shadow on it than they did,” he said.

Now, Imagine, Mr. Szymanski and Mr. Goggins are trying to turn John Bronco into the next Ted Lasso — an effort in the early stages of development.

“It’s kind of a win-win,” Mr. Szymanski said of a possible television series based on Mr. Goggins’ character. “I don’t think Ford would have any creative control over it but to have a character named John Bronco in the world, that would be a good thing for them.”

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Tech’s Legal Shield Appears Likely to Survive as Congress Focuses on Details

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald J. Trump called multiple times for repealing the law that shields tech companies from legal responsibility over what people post. President Biden, as a candidate, said the law should be “revoked.”

But the lawmakers aiming to weaken the law have started to agree on a different approach. They are increasingly focused on eliminating protections for specific kinds of content rather than making wholesale changes to the law or eliminating it entirely.

That has still left them a question with potentially wide-ranging outcomes: What, exactly, should lawmakers cut?

One bill introduced last month would strip the protections from content the companies are paid to distribute, like ads, among other categories. A different proposal, expected to be reintroduced from the last congressional session, would allow people to sue when a platform amplified content linked to terrorism. And another that is likely to return would exempt content from the law only when a platform failed to follow a court’s order to take it down.

open to trimming the law, an effort to shape changes they see as increasingly likely to happen. Facebook and Google, the owner of YouTube, have signaled that they are willing to work with lawmakers changing the law, and some smaller companies recently formed a lobbying group to shape any changes.

December op-ed that was co-written by Bruce Reed, Mr. Biden’s deputy chief of staff, said that “platforms should be held accountable for any content that generates revenue.” The op-ed also said that while carving out specific types of content was a start, lawmakers would do well to consider giving platforms the entire liability shield only on the condition that they properly moderate content.

Supporters of Section 230 say even small changes could hurt vulnerable people. They point to the 2018 anti-trafficking bill, which sex workers say made it harder to vet potential clients online after some of the services they used closed, fearing new legal liability. Instead, sex workers have said they must now risk meeting with clients in person without using the internet to ascertain their intentions at a safe distance.

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who co-wrote Section 230 while in the House, said measures meant to address disinformation on the right could be used against other political groups in the future.

“If you remember 9/11, and you had all these knee-jerk reactions to those horrible tragedies,” he said. “I think it would be a huge mistake to use the disgusting, nauseating attacks on the Capitol as a vehicle to suppress free speech.”

Industry officials say carve-outs to the law could nonetheless be extremely difficult to carry out.

“I appreciate that some policymakers are trying to be more specific about what they don’t like online,” said Kate Tummarello, the executive director of Engine, an advocacy group for small companies. “But there’s no universe in which platforms, especially small platforms, will automatically know when and where illegal speech is happening on their site.”

The issue may take center stage when the chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter testify late this month before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been examining the future of the law.

“I think it’s going to be a huge issue,” said Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the committee’s top Republican. “Section 230 is really driving it.”

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