Live Updates: Tracking How Coronavirus Is Impacting Brands and Agencies

An updated list due to the pandemic

Keeping track of the all the latest closings, include Nike, Apple, Warby Parker and more.
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As the coronavirus—the infection that causes the illness COVID-19—has quickly spread across the world, global industries have struggled to adjust as businesses shut down and international travel slows to a trickle.

Since China reported initial cases of an unusual pneumonia to the World Health Organization in December, governments in over 200 countries globally have reported cases of the virus, according to the WHO. Over 803,000 people have been infected with the virus and more than 39,000 deaths worldwide have been reported.

The current death toll in the United States is over 3,100 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 164,000 cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed across the country.

We’ll keep a running list of how the pandemic is affecting the ad world, from event cancellations to layoffs and market updates.

For the rest of our coronavirus coverage, visit our coronavirus landing page.

On March 24, we launched another resource: Adweek Together, a daily live discussion at 1 p.m. on LinkedIn hosted by Adweek editors along with the leaders of the agencies, brands and companies we cover. Together, we’ll be seeking guidance, solutions and information as we work through the coronavirus crisis.

Editor’s note: All times are E.T.

March 31, 2020

4:17 p.m.: Amazon is helping Lyft drivers find work in their fulfillment centers to support grocery and packaging deliveries 

Amazon is collaborating with Lyft by encouraging its drivers to apply for roles in the jumbo e-commerce retailer’s fulfillment centers. Amazon recently opened up more than 100,000 new roles to support the increased demand for delivering critical supplies. In addition, Amazon is slightly increasing hourly pay in the United States, Canada and Europe through the end of April.

3:45 p.m.: Amazon’s firing of a Staten Island warehouse walkout organizer prompted New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to call for investigation

Amazon alleges that they fired Chris Smalls, a warehouse employee in Staten Island that helped organize a worker walkout on Monday to protest health safeguards and hygienic conditions, because Smalls went against the company’s quarantine and safety policies.

The sudden termination prompted New York Attorney General Letitita James to call for a federal labor investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. Shortly after James’ response, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city’s human rights commissioner to conduct an investigation into the firing.

2:00 p.m.: London-based holding company WPP is cutting costs in light of the pandemic 

In light of the spread of COVID-19, WPP is implementing a hiring freeze, stopping discretionary costs, postponing planned salary increases for this year and suspending its $1.2 billion share buyback program (funded by its recent sale of Kantar). Moreover, members of WPP’s executive committee and board are taking a 20% reduction in their salaries or fees for a starting period of three months.

The London-based holding company predicts these cost-cutting measures will generate about $869-$993 million in savings for 2020.

12:00 p.m.: Despite the overall grim environment for the retail sector amid COVID-19 closures, Nike had better than expected third-quarter results 

Despite having to shutter retail locations and curtail store hours in order to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, Nike reported better than expected third-quarter results, with revenues up 5% globally to $10.1 billion.

Surprisingly, Nike reported only a 5% decrease in sales in Greater China for the quarter ending Feb. 29, even though most of the country was under quarantine during that time and roughly 75% of Nike-owned and partner stores in the region where closed or operating on reduced hours.

How’d the athletic retail giant make it though the overall grim environment for the retail sector? A robust e-commerce presence in China (and Nike’s unique situation in the country) helped.

9:00 a.m.: The Interactive Advertising Bureau postpones the NewFronts until June

Three weeks after shifting this year’s Digital Content NewFronts to a virtual event in light of the novel coronavirus, the IAB is now postponing the entire annual event for nearly two months. The NewFronts, which had been slated to take place April 27-May 6, have been moved to the week of June 22, the IAB said today in a blog post.

The delay comes a week after buyers indicated to Adweek that they would likely not be able to conduct upfront negotiations in the usual late spring/summer time frame as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the industry.

7:55 a.m.: ESPN will release a new docuseries about Michael Jordan and the 90s Chicago Bulls earlier than planned

The highly anticipated 10-part series, called The Last Dance, will air weekly over 5 weeks from April 19-May 17. Outside the U.S., the episodes will be available on Netflix the day after they air.

March 30, 2020

8:07 p.m.: Kohl’s and Gap announce indefinite furloughs of around 80,000 workers each

The retailers join Macy’s, food distributor Sysco Corp. and newspaper giant Gannett in furloughing workers due to the coronavirus-related economic slowdown.

6:42 p.m.: Airbnb to set aside $250 million to help hosts cover costs of COVID-19 cancellations

The company also extended the window for coronavirus-related cancellations through May 31, offering full refunds to guests who booked prior to March 14. Previously, Airbnb had committed to refunding trips through April 14.

12:28 p.m.: Whole Foods employees plan to strike Tuesday to protest lack of worker protections during pandemic

The strike at the grocery chain follows a string of actions from workers in essential industries related to the way the economy has changed as a result of the coronavirus. Today, Instacart and Amazon workers were on strike demanding better worker protections, and General Electric employees protested demanding that jet factories pivot to making ventilators.

12:10 p.m.: Facebook pledges another $100 million to support the news industry

The social media giant said today in a blog post that $25 million will go toward emergency grants for local publishers, while $75 million will go to additional market spending.

11:25 a.m.: Top execs at the Walt Disney Company will forego salaries or take pay cuts as parks stay closed

Walt Disney Company executive chairman Bob Iger will forego his entire salary amid the coronavirus pandemic. CEO Bob Chapek will take a 50% pay cut. Other executives will have their salaries cut by 20-30%, according to reports.

9:02 a.m.: Amazon launches a blog promising daily updates about its coronavirus response

The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on the company’s ecommerce systems, prompting the addition of 100,000 temporary workers to help fulfill orders. The blog features announcements regarding health and safety procedures and corporate philanthropy related to the pandemic.

8:47 a.m.: The International Olympic Committee sets new dates for postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The Summer Olympics, postponed last week as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, have been rescheduled. The Games—which will still be called the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020—will take place from July 23-Aug. 8, 2021. The Paralympic Games will be held from Aug. 24-Sept. 5, 2021. The new dates were agreed upon today by the the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the governments of Japan and Tokyo.

March 28, 2020

1:37 p.m.: Oregon launches blunt COVID-19 message: Stay home or you could accidentally kill someone

The posters, video spots and social media posts, created by Portland agency Wieden + Kennedy, are equally impactful and blunt with messages like “Don’t Accidentally Kill Someone” and “Keep Portland Weird Alive.”

March 27, 2020

5:08 p.m.: Visa’s CEO commits to no coronavirus-related layoffs for the company’s 20,000 employees

2:12 p.m.: Google and parent company Alphabet commit $800 million in ad grants and direct financial support to small businesses, health organizations and governments

The tech giant will give $250 million in ad grants to the World Health Organization, $340 million to small- and medium-sized businesses and $200 million to non-governmental organizations and financial institutions that help small businesses access capital.

1:29 p.m. The U.S. House of Representatives passes a $2 trillion spending bill to combat the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic

7:15 a.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces via Twitter that he has tested positive for COVID-19

March 26, 2020

3:10 p.m.: PopSugar postpones its third annual Play/Ground festival, which was to be held in June in New York City

11:11 a.m.: NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell shared in a staff memo that he has COVID-19

9:37 a.m.: Airbnb’s CEO announces via Twitter that the company will provide housing to 100,000 COVID-19 responders around the world 

8:30 a.m.: Today would have been Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Instead, the league is celebrating the day virtually

With the start of the season postponed for at least two months, the league is streaming 30 games today across multiple platforms. It also set up a coronavirus information page on its website to support fans and combat disinformation.

Major League Baseball

8:30 a.m.: Nearly 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

It’s the highest number of claims ever recorded. Several states noted that the increase in claims were due to layoffs in the service industry as a result of COVID-19.

March 25, 2020

7:02 p.m.: The American Black Film Festival is postponed until October

The 24th annual event was scheduled for June 17-21 in Miami Beach. Instead, it’s been rescheduled for Oct. 21-25.

4:58 p.m.: The London International Awards cancels its 2020 festival

9:00 a.m.: Dave Matthews will perform a solo livestream show to help support small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic

The concert will kick off a weekly entertainment series sponsored by Verizon called “Play It Forward Live.” The series will feature musicians, gamers, comedy and more. Verizon has said that it will donate up to $5 million to Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which will use the funds to provide grants to small businesses facing financial pressure due to COVID-19.

6:25 a.m.: Target withdraws its forecast for the first quarter and fiscal year

The retailer is also scaling back the number of stores it will open and remodel in 2020 to around half of what it had previously predicted.

Target has also rolled out several different employee support initiatives, including a $2 per hour raise for all full-time and part-time store and distribution center employees through at least May 2, manager bonuses and paid sick leave for employees over 65 or with underlying health conditions.

March 24, 2020

5:10 p.m.: AMC’s The Walking Dead was not able to finish post-production on the finale due to COVID-19

The show’s season will end with the 15th episode on April 5 with the finale appearing later in the year as a special episode.

2:19 p.m.: Warner Bros. pushes back Wonder Woman 84’s theatrical debut from June 5 to Aug. 14 

2:04 p.m. Just Born, the candy company that makes Peeps, announces that it will suspend production at factories in Philadelphia and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

1:50 p.m.: Trump wants the country to “reopen” by Easter Sunday (April 12) 

In a Fox News virtual town hall, President Trump announced that he would like the country to “reopen” by Easter Sunday (April 12), so that the U.S. economy can reinvigorate itself. In order to stress his point and in spite of public health experts repeatedly iterating that the coronavirus is more dangerous than the common influenza, Trump noted that the flu, which kills thousands per year in the country, has never “turned off” business. 

12:51 p.m.: Video game maker Ndemic Creations donates $250,000 to help fund COVID-19 relief and develops an update for Plague Inc. that lets you stop a pandemic outbreak

Plague Inc., a video game produced by Ndemic Creations that allows you to play as a plague and decimate humanity, has risen in popularity the past couple of weeks following the emergence of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The disease simulator will now be updated so that players can stop a pandemic outbreak, a decision that came out of talks between the creators, the World Health Organization, and the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The new game mode will be free for all players once it launches.

Ndemic Creations also donated $250,000 to help fund COVID-19 relief.

10:30 a.m.: Ford is working with 3M, GE Healthcare and the United Auto Workers Union to manufacture ventilators, respirators and other critical medical gear 

Ford is working with 3M to produce a Powered Air-Purifying Respirator for healthcare workers, created with parts from both Ford and 3M (including fans used in the Ford F-150’s ventilated seats). Ford will also help to increase the production of 3M’s line of reusable respirators.

The automaker is also working with GE Healthcare to increase the production of ventilators, and is working with the United Auto Workers Union to manufacture clear face shields that protect people—from healthcare workers to grocery store clerks—from infectious respiratory droplets while they’re on the job.

10:16 a.m.: The 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony has been rescheduled for Nov. 7

The ceremony was originally to be held on May 2, but was postponed on March 13 due to concerns related to the new coronavirus. The event will be broadcast live on HBO from the Cleveland Public Auditorium.

8:47 a.m.: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaches an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Olympics for a year

The IOC confirmed the decision in a statement: “The IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

The decision deprives NBCUniversal of what execs had long been calling “the media event of the year”—and a key element of its marketing campaign for upcoming streaming service Peacock—while leaving it with a $1.25 billion-plus ad revenue hole for 2020.

4:35 a.m.: AB InBev has withdrawn its 2020 forecast, citing uncertainty related to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic

March 23, 2020

4:28 p.m.: Brands promote social distancing with altered logos, slogans

Using their own platforms and marketing teams, Chiquita Brands, Coca-Cola and Mucinex are among the many companies that have debuted branded PSAs urging people to abide by official recommendations surrounding COVID-19.

1:34 p.m.: International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound tells USA Today Sports that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed

Details will be worked out in the next four weeks, Pound told the news outlet. The games will likely be held in 2021.

8:18 a.m.: Tito’s Vodka will make an initial batch of 24 tons of hand sanitizer over the next several weeks that adheres to industry and governmental guidance

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has authorized production of ethanol-based hand sanitizers by permitted distillers in response to the national shortage, and Tito’s Vodka wants in.

While the vodka brand still advises consumers that they cannot use their standard product as DIY disinfectant, given that its alcohol content is lower than the CDC’s requirements, their distillery team has been testing out a formula and working on production kinks to begin making hand sanitizer that adheres to industry and governmental guidance.

Over the next few weeks, an initial batch of 24 tons of Tito’s sanitizer will be given out for free to those who need it most.

7:35 a.m.: Time for Kids launches a new grade-specific digital library, free through the end of the school year

The library includes teaching tools, worksheets and quizzes for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade.

March 22, 2020

4:30 p.m.: McDonald’s UK will close all its stores in the UK and Ireland, effective 7 p.m. March 23

The stores will remain closed until “it is safe for us to reopen,” the restaurant chain said in a statement.

March 21, 2020

9:47 p.m.: Anheuser-Busch announces via Twitter that it’d begin producing hand sanitizer to donate to nonprofit partners and institutions in need

11:38 a.m.: LVMH orders 10 million health masks from a Chinese supplier to help France handle the COVID-19 outbreak

The company, which owns luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, has already begun producing and delivering hand sanitizer to French hospitals free of charge.

March 20, 2020

3:33 p.m.: Netflix sets up a $100 million fund to support Hollywood’s creative community during the pandemic

1:36 p.m.: Without live sports, fans switch to binge-watching and news

Live sports programming came to a screeching halt last week as leagues including the NBA and MLB suspended their seasons in response to the growing spread of COVID-19. In the absence of their favorite TV programming, sports fans are flocking to streaming shows—and in some cases keeping their TVs off entirely.

Last weekend, regular sports fans spent 47% more time streaming compared to the previous weekend, according to data from Inscape, which pulls automatic content recognition information from more than 14 million Vizio television sets.

12:52 p.m.: Gamers are fighting misinformation about the coronavirus crisis

After big names in the gaming community shared facts on the virus, the responses from their fans worried them. Many seemed like they weren’t taking COVID-19 nearly as seriously as they should be. So Bryce Blum, an esports lawyer, decided to start Gamers vs. COVID-19. The goal is to use a coordinated social media effort to educate the gaming public.

11:53 a.m.: Faux Subway posters urge NYC commuters to curb anti-Asian hate

Two weeks ago, when people still left their homes and New Yorkers took the subway to work, Thomas Shim and Evan Choi snuck from station to station pasting up posters. With the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) logo stamped in the upper right corner and the familiar phrase “Service Information” emblazoned across the top, the posters looked like official public notices from the city agency that operates one of the world’s most busiest commuter systems.

Featuring colors from the Chinese, Korean and Japanese flags, the official-looking announcements tell riders: “No ignorance, racism, or xenophobia allowed at this station at any time.”

11:29 a.m.:  New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandates that 100% of workforce must work from home, excluding essential services

9:55 a.m.: Disney’s Onward available for digital purchase tonight as the coronavirus shutters theaters

Disney’s latest Pixar film, Onward, opened in theaters just two weeks ago, but the company is already making it available for digital purchase tonight, making it the latest current release to quickly migrate to video-on-demand platforms as the novel coronavirus’ spread wipes out traditional movie theater attendance.

The film, which follows the adventures of two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, will be available to purchase on digital platforms for $19.99 beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Disney said this morning.

It will then be released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ just two weeks from now, on April 3.

9:19 a.m.: 7-eleven says it expects to hire 20,000 to meet increased demand during pandemic

9:18 a.m.: The Scripps National Spelling Bee, which was to be held on May 24 in Maryland, has been canceled

While it may be rescheduled for later in the year, organizers did not commit to a new date, according to the Associated Press.

8:15 a.m.: Bed Bath & Beyond is temporarily closing 800 stores through April 3, 2020

The retailer is keeping open stores that carry meaningful amounts of essential items, such as cleaning supplies, health, wellness and personal care products. The stores that remain open will operate

March 19, 2020

8:38 p.m.: Dr. Anthony Fauci makes coronavirus plea live on Facebook

On Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. During the interview, Fauci asked young people to “to please understand that you play a major role in ultimately containing this infection by not being careless and listening to the recommendations of physical separation.”

The 38-minute conversation, which drew 1.1 million views and more than 31,000 shares, was a significant move by Facebook, which has struggled to contain the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak on its platform. At the same time, Facebook has promoted reliable information from public health authorities such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, which houses Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

8:38 p.m.: Walmart will add 150,000 jobs and hand out special cash bonuses to hourly employees in coming weeks

The retail giant announced today that it will hire 150,000 temporary workers for its stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers.

Current employees will receive special cash bonuses—$300 for full-time employees and $150 for part-time. The retailer will also be fast-tracking Q1 bonuses for store, club and supply chain associates, which will be paid out in April instead of May. The total amount of bonuses will add up to nearly $550 million.

4:13 p.m.: Amazon halts Prime Pantry grocery delivery service in order to restock and fulfill open orders

3:50 p.m.: Airlines are asking for billions in bailout money—and so is everyone else

As talks between the White House, Congress and America’s C-suite intensify with the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. airline industry is poised for a bailout. But while the size and scale of the coronavirus epidemic are unprecedented, the industry is no stranger to the legislative halls of Washington, D.C.—after 9/11, the airline industry saw losses of roughly $34 billion.

Now, with the coronavirus expected to cost the industry as much as $113 billion, airline leaders and their lobbyists are “optimistic” that the industry will be receiving help once again in some form.

2:58 p.m.: Nonprofits launch programs to support restaurant workers as coronavirus decimates industry

While restaurant workers wait and hope for government assistance, nonprofits across the country in the food and beverage space are shifting their efforts to help those directly affected by the pandemic as immediately as they can. Many of them specialize in crisis relief but, until now, most of their efforts have been regional and focused on finite crises, like natural disasters. The coronavirus pandemic finds these organizations expanding their programs as much as possible, while potentially dealing directly with job losses for themselves, their friends and their loved ones.

2:23 p.m.: Netflix is reducing traffic on European networks by 25% to ensure smooth functioning of the internet during the COVID-19 crisis

1:35 p.m.: Companies are giving away everything they used to sell

Giveaways range from toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes to internet services, storage units and hamburgers. But where does charity end and marketing begin?

1:20 p.m.: Zoom has become the go-to king of the quarantine economy

The videoconferencing company’s stock price has nearly doubled since the start of the outbreak in December. It’s now worth more than Uber and Lyft combined, nearing the combined value of the four big U.S. airlines.

11:00 a.m.: The 24th annual Webby Awards, which was scheduled for May 11 in New York, has been canceled

The Webby Awards recognize and honor the best of the internet. Nominees will be announced in the coming weeks, followed by public voting. The new schedule will be released in the days ahead, and the plan is to hold an internet celebration and give the winners the chance to deliver the event’s trademark five-word speeches.

10:48 a.m.: Austin-based startup Everlywell says it will have at-home test kits for COVID-19 ready by Monday

The test kit will cost $135 at no profit to Everlywell, the company said in a blog post, and results will be available securely and digitally “within days.” It expects to have tests for a quarter million people weekly.

9:12 a.m.: ESPN revives The Ocho, Hallmark sets Christmas marathon as networks shake up schedules

This morning, a pair of cable networks announced they would be shaking up their weekend schedules for marathons of comfort-food programming. ESPN is bringing back ESPN8: The Ocho, its annual roundup of “seldom seen sports,” on Sunday, while Hallmark Channel will air a We Need a Little Christmas marathon of holiday movies.

6:43 a.m.: As anxiety over the coronavirus grows, meditation apps see a spike in downloads

Apple’s App Store is currently featuring a guided meditation section on its homepage, encouraging users to “find time for self-care.” Calm, a meditation app, is the second most-downloaded health and fitness app in the store, while Headspace, another mediation app, is sixth.

2:18 a.m.: Rolex shuts all plants and prepares for its worst year ever

1:21 a.m.: An Amazon warehouse worker in Queens, New York, has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus

The facility temporarily closed for additional sanitation.

March 18, 2020

9:48 p.m.: Conan will be first late-night show to resume full-length episodes

Conan O’Brien is the latest host to figure out a way to keep making new content after all the late-night shows temporarily suspended production amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic.

But while Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have been filming 10-minute segments from their respective homes, O’Brien will be producing full-length episodes of his TBS show, Conan.

7:22 p.m.: HBO Max delays Friends reunion but still hopes to film in time for May launch

As Hollywood hunkers down amid the coronavirus pandemic, TV and film production is grinding to a halt. That now includes the Friends cast reunion for HBO Max. But while the special has been delayed, WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service still plans to film the program in time for its launch in May.

7:06 p.m.: Ecommerce platform Mercado Libre changes its logo from a handshake to an elbow bump

Latin America’s largest ecommerce platform, Mercado Libre, is using its most central design element to make a statement about stemming the global outbreak of COVID-19.

Agency Gut Buenos Aires has redesigned the site’s logo to replace its longtime handshake with an elbow bump, symbolizing the small daily changes required to create “social distance” that helps limit the spread of the coronavirus that’s been rapidly expanding around the world.

5:20 p.m.: Media organizations see a spike in traffic due to the popularity of coronavirus coverage among readers

While media execs aren’t eager to discuss the way their companies are planning to profit off of the pandemic, page views and subscriptions seem to be up across the board for publishers.