National News

Coming up with a billion dollar ad campaign? Priceless.

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 10:22

Kevin Allen is a ‘pitchman.’ In his three decades in advertising, the bulk of which were spent with McCann Erickson, Allen assembled teams that created countless campaigns. But it was one slogan for one account that changed his life and had a strangely profound impact on American culture.

The first commercial aired during the 1997 World Series. It featured a father and a son attending a Major League Baseball game and the sound of Billy Crudup’s voice nostalgically reading:

Two tickets: $46

Two hot dogs, two popcorns, two sodas: $27

One autographed baseball: $50

Real conversation with 11-year-old son: Priceless.

Video of Mastercard baseball commercial

The structure, capped off with that one word - "priceless" – struck a nerve. It was suddenly emblazoned on t-shirts, used in campaign commercials and spoofed on TV. And it's stuck around for 17 years. It not only helped solidify Allen's reputation in the ad world, it helped him finally answer a question that had been nagging him for years:

“When I was coming up in the business, my mom would call me up every so often and say, ‘So, Kevin. What is it you do?’ And I know what it was. She was talking to my neighbor whose son was a doctor, and mom couldn’t have any bragging rights. When I was able to say 'I was part of creating the ‘Priceless’ campaign for MasterCard' – of course she tells everybody I wrote it, I produced it, I acted in it – you know, it’s life-changing.”

Allen says he and his partner knew they had something big when they came up with the idea, but it wasn’t until they were in the pitch review session that they sensed just how big:

“It’s very, very rare that you present something in the pitch room that ends up on air. I think it’s happened to me only a couple of times in my career. It was probably one of the longest reviews in a long time – it was about six months – and everybody knew it would change the lives of everyone who was involved in it. And it came down to two of us. And when we pitched the idea, (my partner) leaned over to me and said, ‘I hope we don’t mess this up.’ We all knew there was something profoundly special about this idea, but no one knew that it would go as far as it went. It’s still in dozens and dozens of countries around the world.”

Allen says the industry has changed a lot since he first started in the biz. Advertisers are losing more and more control:

 “I would call the old days the supply economy. It was a nice, neat, little world where we controlled everything. Back when I was a young account executive I would monitor what were called Out Of Stocks or OOS. And that meant if a product was out of stock in Cleveland I turned the advertising off. As soon as it went back on the shelf again, on went the advertising and everything flies off the shelf. And when I tell those stories now to young marketers they giggle and say, ‘you gotta be kidding me.’

Why do the young advertisers laugh?

"And it’s because of this ultimate democratization that has occurred in general as a result of technology and the internet. You know, the customer is firmly in charge, and they’ll tell us so."

 

Kevin Allen's new book about starting his career in advertising and what he learned as he moved up is called "The Case of the Missing Cutlery: A Leadership Course for the Rising Star.

How Your Love Of Burgers May Be Helping To Drive Wildlife Extinct

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 09:43

Many meat-eating animal lovers may not realize that their hankering for hamburgers hurts wildlife. A conservation group says some species have already been driven extinct by the livestock industry.

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Houdini, debt, and dandelions

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 09:42

Here’s a look at what’s coming up next week (March 24 - 28):

Let’s start things off with some magic. Harry Houdini was born on March 24th, 1874. Not an easy guy to lock up. Internet sources say he showed soldiers how to escape from German handcuffs during World War I.

On Tuesday—lots of stuff to talk about. The House Financial Services Committee is scheduled to discuss “Why Debt Matters.”

The Conference Board releases its monthly Consumer Confidence Index.

They had lots of confidence. The TV series “Cagney and Lacey” premiered in 1982. The crime drama shook up the norm, placing two female detectives in lead roles.

And feminist and “Ms Magazine” founder Gloria Steinem turns 80.

Mid-week the Commerce Department reports on durable goods orders for February.

On March 27th, 2006 Graceland, home to Elvis Presley, was declared a national historic landmark. And sixteen years ago on the same date the FDA approved Viagra.

Finally now that we’re a week into spring, gardening may be on your to-do list. Well, March 28th is Weed Appreciation Day. Did you know that some weeds are edible? We here at Datebook headquarters say pull those ugly dandelions. 

You can live the Datebook lifestyle at marketplace.org/Datebook.

A raise in minimum wage

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 09:05

In one of his weekly addresses earlier this year, President Obama asked that the public put pressure on Congress to “give America a raise.”

The President would like to see the federal minimum wage raised to $10.10 an hour, a nearly $3 an hour from the current $7.25,  that would take a full-time worker from making roughly $15,000 annually to over $20,000.

Tsedeye Gebreselassie, a staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, says while that may not seem like a lot of money, it can make a big difference.  

“$20,000 a year is still not a princely sum, but it’s a significant increase for the roughly 28 million workers who will benefit,” Gebreselassie says.

And Gebreselassie argues that it isn’t just individual workers who benefit from the wage hike. The economy could benefit, too.

“When you put more money into the pockets of low-income workers, they’re going to go out there and spend it immediately because they have to on basic necessities like food [and] clothing. And that helps local businesses that rely on that business to stay afloat,” she says.

John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the Small Business Majority, supports the hike. He says that the increase in pay would directly benefit small businesses along with the rest of the economy.

“[Raising the minimum wage] would ensure that there’s more money in our economy so that people can buy small business products and services. It’s the old Henry Ford adage.  He wanted to pay his employees enough so that they could buy his cars,” Arensmeyer says.

In a poll conducted by the Small Business Majority, 57% of small business owners said that they supported an increase to the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, with 82% reporting that they already pay more than the minimum wage.

Arensmeyer says that there is no real evidence that raising the minimum wage would decrease the number in jobs, but that studies do show that increasing the minimum wage would put billions of dollars into the economy and reduce the need for public assistance.

“In order to maintain a thriving middle-class based economy, you have to have money circulating through the economy and you have to pay people enough so that they can buy products and services,” Arensmeyer says.

Not all small business advocacy groups agree with Arensmeyer on the proposed minimum wage hike, including the National Federation of Independent Business. We reached out to the NFIB for comment, but as of now, they haven't responded. This page will be updated to reflect their response if they do so.

A glossary of tax evasion

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 09:00

Caterpillar Inc, an American company specializing in the design and sale of construction equipment and machinery, will appear before the Senate next month, according to Bloomberg News. A Senate committee will call Caterpillar as part of its investigation of possible tax evasion by multinationals like Apple. Caterpillar is under the spotlight because it was the subject of a lawsuit in 2009, in which the company was accused by a former employee of dodging US taxes by setting up shell companies in Switzerland and Bermuda. Little evidence exists that Caterpillar did this; the original lawsuit in 2009 was settled, and Caterpillar denied the charges.

Multinationals can (and do) set up subsidiary companies in countries which have relaxed tax laws to avoid paying taxes within the U.S. Over time, the complicated maneuvers that multinations indulge in to wriggle free of the taxman's grasp have picked up nicknames that sound like the special menu in a deli: 

- A Shell Company: no, this isn't the company Cally set up to sell seashells by the seashore. A shell company has no operations or significant assets, and as such, is an empty vessel or "shell." A parent company can assign nominal responibilities to it with a pen stroke, and even though nothing actually happens at the subsidiary, the parent company can use it as a store or a conduit for funds.

A [country name] structure: Quite simply, the name of the country in which the shell company or other scam is created. Caterpillar was accused of setting up companies in Switzerland and Bermuda, known as a Swiss structure and a Bermuda structure. If they had set up in the Caymans, they would have called it a Cayman structure.

- A Double Irish: the case when two Irish subsidiary companies are set up by a U.S. entity. A Double Irish is a tortuous but profitable structure, through which money flows like soda through a crazy straw. It takes advantage of loopholes in Irish tax law that do not tax transfer pricing or the assets of subsidiary companies.

- A Dutch Sandwich: An embellishment to the Double Irish: add an additional shell company in the Netherlands, which acts as a middle step between the two Irish entities, and you get ... something that sounds tastier than it actually is. 

So the next time you order lunch in Bermuda, why not try a shell in a double Irish with a Dutch sandwich? Add in a Swiss structure on the side -- and tell us what you get in return. 

Down Goes Duke In Biggest Upset So Far

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 08:47

The Blue Devils lost to Mercer University. Harvard, North Dakota State and Dayton are other underdogs who have pulled off surprises. Who's going to be upset next as basketball's March Madness sets in?

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Thai Court Throws Out Election, Thrusting Country Back Into Limbo

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 08:05

The country's constitutional court says the opposition's boycott of the election, which prevented voting in some constituencies, invalidates the results.

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In Hawaii, Sex With A Prostitute May Be Legal For Undercover Cops

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 07:47

Honolulu's police department wants to keep an exemption from arrest that is not included in a proposed state law. Critics say the police don't need to go all the way to break up prostitution rings.

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Feathers Fly As Top Turkish Officials Square Off Over Twitter Ban

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 07:06

After Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved to shut down the social media service to quiet opposition, the country's president tweeted his objection to the ban.

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Why 500 Million U.S. Seafood Meals Get Dumped In The Sea

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 06:26

Nine American fisheries together throw overboard as much as 340 million pounds of fish and other species they were not trying to catch, a report finds. Much of it is perfectly edible fish.

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Teenage Drinkers Go For High-End Liquor And Cheap Beer, Too

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 06:25

Liquor companies have gotten a lot of heat for marketing sweet, fruity drinks that appeal to underage drinkers. But teens also favor premium vodka and whiskey. Cost isn't always driving choice.

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PODCAST: IRS scam

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 06:03

When the IRS telephones, the good news is, it may not be the IRS. Bad news: it may be a scam. The government is warning taxpayers about a new, large scale fraud involving phone calls from people pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service.

Yesterday was the official start of Spring and to mark the occasion, Walmart is launching a “Black Friday”-like sale for outdoor items. Black Friday, of course, kicks-off the Christmas shopping season and it’s when retailers make most of their profits. But is there really a Black-Friday-like demand for gardening and outdoor supplies in the Spring?

And, what would happen if Congress enacted the Senate version of immigration reform? You might expect that workers who are currently undocumented would immediately move up the economic ladder. But many of them won’t.

PODCAST: IRS scam

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 06:03

When the IRS telephones, the good news is, it may not be the IRS. Bad news: it may be a scam. The government is warning taxpayers about a new, large scale fraud involving phone calls from people pretending to be the Internal Revenue Service.

Yesterday was the official start of Spring and to mark the occasion, Walmart is launching a “Black Friday”-like sale for outdoor items. Black Friday, of course, kicks-off the Christmas shopping season and it’s when retailers make most of their profits. But is there really a Black-Friday-like demand for gardening and outdoor supplies in the Spring?

And, what would happen if Congress enacted the Senate version of immigration reform? You might expect that workers who are currently undocumented would immediately move up the economic ladder. But many of them won’t.

Top Stories: Malaysia Jet Remains Missing; Turkey's Leaders Split On Twitter Ban

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 05:04

Also: As Ukraine moves closer to EU, Putin signs law to annex Crimea; Mt. Gox says it found 200,000 Bitcoins; and a "day of upsets" in college basketball.

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Split Decisions: Ukraine Signs Up With EU, Russia Wraps Up Crimea

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 04:20

As the new government in Kiev was initialing a pact with the European Union on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was signing legislation to complete the annexation of Crimea.

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Nothing So Far In Search For Debris From Malaysian Jet

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 03:10

The focus remains on an area of the Indian Ocean southwest of Perth, Australia. Teams are looking for objects seen floating in the ocean there in images taken by a satellite last weekend.

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Why Cholera Persists In Haiti Despite An Abundance Of Aid

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

The deadly bacteria continue to sicken and kill people in Haiti. And the epidemic won't stop until the country provides basic sanitation. Many Haitians still don't even have latrines.

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Mr. Johnson goes to Washington: This week's Silicon Tally

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

It's time for Silicon Tally. How well have you kept up with the week in tech news?

This week's guest is Marketplace's own David Gura. Gura joins us from the Washington, D.C. bureau where he reports on Congress and the White House.

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Does Diversity On Research Team Improve Quality Of Science?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

As science becomes more diverse, scientific collaborators are growing more diverse, too. New research exploring the effect of this change suggests the diversity of the teams that produce scientific research play a big role in how successful the science turns out to be.

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Romney's Job In Idaho: Prevent GOP Voters From Veering 'Wild Right'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-03-21 01:00

Idaho is one of a few states where failed presidential candidate Mitt Romney can still be an effective campaigner. Romney has been stumping there for Gov. Butch Otter and Rep. Mike Simpson. Both are facing May primary challenges from Tea Party candidates.

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