How much is it worth to you to be in on a joke?
Nothing? $10? How about $40,000?
We’ve been contemplating that this week because, of course, of the remarkable story of what has to be the world’s most expensive potato salad.
Short version: Guy makes a kickstarter to make potato salad, puts it on internet, it goes viral, and explodes in a hail of dollars.
What is it about things like this that makes us want to buy in?
New York Magazine’s blog The Science of Us wrote about the transitive property of internet humor - that these moments of virality bind us together in some type of hypermodern experiential campfire. I think that’s true, in part. But they also hit a sweet spot between cynicism (the modern world has ruined everything) and joy (we can contribute to something silly and whimsical). There is originality and connection in the world and we’re constantly discovering new ways to find it.
In our brunch segment this week on Marketplace Weekend, our contributor Jessica Pressler reminded me of the New York bus monitor whose video bullying by students went viral. That incident tapped into our altruistic financial impulses and she received some $700,000 in donations via Indiegogo.
Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I have this hope (stoked by our other bruncher, Joe Weisenthal), that someone will go looking for the potato salad, and stumble onto other Kickstarters. Maybe fund a classroom computer. Someone’s medical treatment. Food for a shelter. A pet rescue. Something else that binds us together when we are otherwise fragmented, pixilated, and far apart.
Plus, with dueling speakers at the Federal Reserve, Salmon believes we should listen to Ktochelekova. Why? Because: “he’s by far the most interesting guy,” at the Federal Reserve.
Listen to their full conversation in the audio player above.
If you've been following the World Cup you may have seen Spanish language TV ads with English subtitles.
Coca Cola tried an ad using different languages during the Super Bowl earlier this year. It didn’t go over so well. But for advertisers the World Cup is a whole different ball game.
“One extreme is the Super Bowl, another extreme is the World Cup," says Mauro Guillen, a professor of international management and Director of the Lauder Institute at the Wharton School. He says one reason we’re seeing ads with English subtitles on American TV, from companies like Hyundai, Dish and JC Penney, is becasue of the growing economic clout of the Hispanic community in the U.S.
JC Penney says it's received such a positive response to its commercial, "Pulse" that it's decided to air the spot, in Spanish, with English subtitles, on primetime networks, NBC, ABC and FOX for the duration of this week.
While Hyundai has been airing its Spanish language ad, "Boom", on ESPN.
The World Cup, notes Guillen, "is a unique opportunity. To experiment and to try out new things. Because not everybody is watching.”
Viewers, he says, are young and cosmopolitan -- they understand bilingual ads -- literally.
Luis Miguel Messianu, president and chief creative officer of Alma, a multicultural advertising firm in Miami, says advertisers are smart to speak Spanish during the World Cup.
“Everybody realizes the power of having a SuperBowl that lasts one month,” he says.
Soccer in America, notes Messianu, is no longer a niche sport. Instead, it’s alive and kicking.
But sports aside, for advertisers, notes Marlene Morris Towns, a professor of marketing at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, "it really is a wise business move to look at who your audience is and speak to them, not just in terms of their lifestyle and culture, but litearlly in terms of their language."
Second-quarter bank earnings reports kick off today. First up is Wells Fargo. Other major banks including JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Bank of America follow next week.
Wells Fargo has been winning, big. The nation's top mortgage lender has had 17 straight quarters of earnings growth. But that streak might just come to an end. Earnings aren't expected to be all that great, as analysts predict small declines in second-quarter earnings.
Lauren Cohen, who teaches finance at Harvard Business School, says that's because of slower-than-expected growth in the housing market.
"So it's not that there weren't home sales, it's just that we thought it was going to be a little bit faster," he says. "So that was baked into expectations about how we thought Wells Fargo was going to do."
There's another thing that worries banks: all that money these companies will be paying the government for their part in the recent financial crisis.
"That's one area that will hurt banks' bottom lines," says Michael Imerman, who teaches finance at Lehigh University. He says over last quarter, several of the big banks have set aside reserves for legal fees and settlements.
"We're talking billions of dollars, and this seems to be just the beginning," he says.
On the upside, Cohen says, these are one-off expenses. So banks will bounce back. Eventually.
Increasingly, big brands are adding social media to their ad budgets, often placing ads directly with users who’ve built large online followings on sites like Instagram, YouTube, and Vine. But how do companies and these influencers hook up? There’s a new crop of matchmakers eager to help pair companies with people who will post ads to their feeds.
For Jessica Shyba, companies' interest in her blog and social media networks took off back in November, after she posted photos of her son napping with the family’s new puppy coiled around him.
The photos went viral, and suddenly, she was everywhere.
“At that point, I hired an agent,” said Shyba, turning to Cara Braude, though she’s not sure the word “agent” is the best fit. “You know, when I introduce her to brands or to PR representatives, I introduce her as being in charge of my sponsorships and partnerships.”
Whatever the right title, it was clear Shyba needed help. On Instagram alone, she has nearly half a million followers, which draws lots of attention from brands. On the other side of the table, companies need help finding the Shybas of the internet.
These matchmakers can range from independents like Shyba’s rep or fancy tech start-ups. But the questions they help answer are similar.
“So if you have a have a budget that you want to allocate to Instagram but you’re like, ‘Well how do I go about finding the 30 people who are the perfect brand ambassadors for me?’” says Rob Fishman, co-founder of Niche, which helps companies place packages of ads across a handful of social networks. “Once I find them, how do I reach out, how much should I be paying them and how do know what the return on my investment is?’”
Another company, Reelio, currently focuses exclusively on YouTube ads.
“YouTube’s the big dog,” say Ben Williams, one of Reelio’s founders as well as its CTO and CIO.
Eventually, the company plans to add other sites, but Williams says YouTube is a good starting point for brands.
“The top hundred channels on are really easy to find,” say Williams. As a result, placing ads with them can be competitive, with rates hitting as much as $30,000 or $50,000 per sponsored video.
Finding YouTube "influencers" with more modest, but still significant subscriber bases can be more time consuming, which is where Reelio and its matching algorithm comes in. They typically broker deals where compensation is based on the viewership of a sponsored video.
For example, Reelio matched a YouTube creator with a few hundred thousand followers with Squarespace, a company that helps people make websites.
The video’s producer staged a race between two smartphones to test their processing speed, even though Squarespace doesn’t sell the phones.
“It’s more for brand recognition, like traditional advertising,” says Williams.
The video had about 330,000 views. People had chosen to watch the video because they were interested in the content -- which is the real match companies are seeking.