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The times they really are a-changin’: Bob Dylan as Chrysler pitchman

These are stories Report on Business is following Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.

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Dylan as pitchman
It's not Bob Dylan's first ad, but in a social media era it may well be the one with the biggest impact.

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Twitter is alive with comments about Dylan – our style is to use "Mr." but that doesn't sound right in this case – after the music legend became the pitchman for Chrysler Group LLC during yesterday's Super Bowl.

Dylan was the surprise star of a two-minute, overly patriotic (and blue collar-ish) ad for the auto maker that reportedly cost Chrysler $16-million (U.S.).

"So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone," he says in the ad.

"We will build your car."

It's a big deal because of Dylan's roots as the troubadour of the Sixties counterculture and now the pitchman for one very big business.

But it's not his first: He did an ad for General Motors Co. several years ago, and another for Victoria's Secret before that.

But those were before social media.

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"All this Dylan outrage is cute," tweeted Seth Mnookin, who also teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"He's someone who has confounded expectations for 50 yrs.," Mr. Mnookin, who is also a writer, added on Twitter, and also reported by Bloomberg.

"Why anyone expects him to embody their squishy idealism is beyond me."

While the Dylan Chrysler spot is certainly the talk of the town, Forbes questions how successful it will be given its timing.

"The problem was that instead of a nail biter of a finish as expected, the game was a 36-0 blowout," writes Allen St. John on the Forbes website.

(The final score was 43-8 for the Seattle Seahawks)

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"At my neighbour Will and Linda's Super Bowl party, the guests were saying their goodbyes as the Chrysler spot hit the air. I imagine exactly the same thing was happening at a lot of other Super Bowl parties across the country."

Markets mixed
Investors are on edge this morning amid more weak economic readings from China, some having bounced between green and red.

Tokyo's Nikkei lost 2 per cent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was closed.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100 was up 0.2 per cent by about 8:50 a.m. ET, while Germany's DAX and the  Paris CAC 40 were down by between 0.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent.

Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 futures climbed.

"We could be in for another bad week in the markets after things got off to a shaky start in Asia overnight, with losses being made across the board driven largely by disappointing data from China and Australia," said market analyst Craig Erlam of Alpari.

"The Chinese non-manufacturing PMI dropped to 53.4 in January, a decline that surprised no one given how the rest of the data has performed so far this year, but nonetheless weighed on markets overnight. On the bright side, the figure remained comfortably above 50, the level that separates growth from contraction, while continuing to show growth, albeit slightly slower, in both the services and construction sectors."

Loonie gets a lift
Friday's U.S. State Department report on the Keystone XL pipeline is giving the Canadian dollar a lift.

The loonie, as Canada's dollar coin is known, is the best-performing currency today, reaching almost 90.5 cents U.S. at one point before trading at 90.3 cents later in the morning.

"This is likely to sway Secretary of State Kerry to provide a favourable recommendation to President Obama on the construction of the pipeline, which will provide added capacity for Canadian oil to flow into the U.S.," said chief currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Bank of Nova Scotia.

Getting Canada's crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast is seen as key to the oil patch, in turn a boost to the economy.

"The CAD rally has created an opening for profit taking on short positions, which has added to CAD strength," Ms. Sutton added, referring to the currency by its symbol.

As The Globe and Mail's Shawn McCarthy, Kelly Cryderman and Jeff Jones report, the State Department concluded that TransCanada Corp.'s controversial project would not significantly increase greenhouse gas emission, buoying hopes among its proponents.

Valeant in new deal
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. has struck an agreement to acquire PreCision Dermatology Inc. for $475-million (U.S.), the latest deal in its bid to become one of the world's top five drug companies by the end of 2016, The Globe and Mail's Bertrand Marotte reports.

Canada's largest publicly traded drug company said today it will pay an additional $25-million for PreCision upon the achievement of an unspecified sales-based milestone.

Valeant is building up its dermatology business and the PreCision acquisition is part of that strategy. Last year, Valeant bought skin-care product maker Obagi Medical Products Inc. for about $343.7-million (U.S.).

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