Archive for Pop Culture

Apple Settles Lawsuit with Parents Who Got Smurfed in the Smurf From Expensive In-App Purchases

The village of the damned/smurfed

We’ve all been there before.  We’re stuck with a kid who can’t stop whining about being bored, needing food, or craving the love and discipline of an adult.  So to get them to shut up we hand them our iphone/ ipod/whatever electronic device and tell them to play something so we can shut them up.  We get a few hours a of peace, and then suffer from a few hours of abject horror when we get our monthly bill. We see that little Johnny spent $600 on smurf berries, and that a Steve Jobs clone is coming to punch our teeth down your throat if we don’t pay up.

That story may sound a bit farfetched, but if anything it isn’t insane enough to show the problem some parents were having with their kids finding and using “hidden” in-app purchases.  In 2011 Stephanie Kay was taken aback when she received a bill for $1400 from Apple in her inbox, and was presumably even more shocked when she realized that the bill wasn’t a bizarre prank.  Her 8 year old daughter was playing the Capcom game Smurfs’ Village, a game that her mother was able to download for free.  Kay wasn’t aware that the manufacturer made the game free, but chose to make certain items in the game cost money.  These weren’t little multi-use items that cost under $1.99, this game was happily charging its users $99 for a wagon of smurfberries and $19 for a freaking bucket of snowflakes.

It isn’t exactly news that there are free to play games that charge their users for special in game content, but people were particularly outraged that a game that’s marketed to children could have so many covertly hidden and expensive items.  Kay wasn’t the only parent who had lost hundreds of dollars to the smurfs and other cute shovelware games; there were tons of parents that were unknowingly letting their kids play games with absurdly expensive items.  Capcom eventually added a disclaimer to the Smurfs’ Village game:

PLEASE NOTE: Smurf Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings.

But by the time they had posted it, it was already too late for some people.

Take my money Apple, I was only using it to make it rain on stockphoto models anyway

Since most apps didn’t require users to re-enter passwords to make in-game purchases, in 2011 rightfully pissed-off parents filled a lawsuit against Apple for making it too easy for kids to purchase in game goods.  Apple essentially changed their in-app purchasing systems in March of 2011, but by then most of the damage was already done.  In a surprising turn of events Apple ended up settling the lawsuit, but the U.S. district court judge who ruled the case is still ironing out the details.

Essentially users who spent more than $30 in in-app purchases can receive a cash refund after jumping through some hoops, and Apple will be required to notify the 23 million+ iTunes account holders who purchased content from certain games about the settlement.  Some people can expect to receive a $5 iTunes gift card for their troubles because Apple feels the need to give their loyal customers one final middle finger.


Halloween By the Numbers

Everybody knows that the Christmas season is the #1 holiday for business owners, and thanks to the popularity of online shopping and insane consumerism the Christmas shopping season starts earlier every year.  Christmas gets all the attention because of the money people spend each year on the holiday, but it isn’t the only holiday that pulls in big bucks.

Halloween has transformed from a small and cheap candy giveaway to the second biggest money making holiday.  Halloween used to be reserved for children, but now adults are happily dressing up and partying on All Hallow’s Eve.  In the past a jazzed up bed sheet and stale popcorn balls were all you needed to celebrate the holiday, but now people literally spend billions each year on the event.  Let’s take a look at the numbers behind America’s sweetest holiday.

9 billion- The average amount of candy corn that candy makers produce each year.  It comes out to 35 million pounds of the chewy and sweet candy, almost enough to circle the moon 21 times when they’re laid down from end to end.

120 million- The average amount of American adults and children that dress up for Halloween

$20 billion- The estimated value of candy retailers sell each year for Halloween

25 pounds- The amount of candy the average American eats each year

3 to 4 days- The average amount of days east coast states delayed trick or treating for because of Hurricane Sandy

$370 million- The amount of money that will be spent on Halloween costumes for pets


Social Media Etiquette for Business Dummies

“Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president.”

Some people would call that tweet crass, others would say it’s downright inappropriate, but in the minds of PR and business professionals that tweet is nothing but a huge PR blunder.  That tweet was posted on KitchenAid’s twitter page, and it only took 140 characters and a not well thought out political comment to enrage their thousands of twitter followers.

Social media has transformed the way companies do business.  Thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter businesses get to reach their customers in a far more personal (and personalized) way.  Unfortunately the connect opportunities social media provides businesses has the potential to swing both ways, one status update or one tweet can cause more trouble than most businesses can handle.  That tweet was posted during the first presidential debate and was taken down almost as quickly as it was posted, but by then the damage was done.  The offensive tweet had been re-tweeted by hundreds of people, and KitchenAid had to scramble to do damage control.  The company issued an official apology on the matter, but they still lost some loyal customers.

Don’t let your business suffer from a social media blunder like KitchenAid, follow this social media tips so you can keep your followers happy and loyal.

Avoid Politics

It’s been said before that it’s best to avoid discussing political issues and religious views in social situations.  That etiquette rule (along with most etiquette rules) should be applied to social media posts.  Even if you think your customer base leans to a certain political side it’s best to avoid posting about political issues, but if you must post about politics there is a right way to do it.  Avoid taking any definitive sides in your post and try to keep the mood of your post light.  Seriousness and political social media posts never seem to mix

Avoid Social Issues

You probably have some very strong opinions about abortion, gay rights, and other hot button social issues.  Regardless of how extreme your views are, it’s guaranteed that you have some customers who have even stronger views than you.  The Chik-fil-a gay marriage fiasco should show you just how much a company’s moral stance can affect business.  Unless if your company has a solid stance and public stance on an issue, it isn’t worth posting about.

Stop Making Serious Posts, This is The Internet

Social media from a business standpoint is meant to attract and entice customers to buy your product or service.  You want more of this from your customers:









And none of this:











If you keep your social media posts light, funny, and completely not-serious, you’ll do just fine.


Was ‘Made In America’ Worth It For Philadelphia?

From World Series crowds to Live 8, Philadelphia has played host to massive events before. But this weekend, the city hosted the first-ever paid concert event on the public boulevard known as the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Curated and headlined by Jay-Z, the Made In America festival brought nearly 75,000 paid attendees per day to the City of Brotherly Love from across the world. But the added fencing, security and staging needed to set this one-of-a-kind music festival off no doubt cost the city as well. So the question many city residents are asking now that the festival is in the books: how did we do?

The truth is it may be weeks before the true return on investment is known. Mayor Michael Nutter was not eager to give details in press conferences last week, but a few key indicators gave residents a glimpse into the concert’s success.

The simplest indicator came from a count at the gage. Concert planner Live Nation reported that the festival brought approximately 74,000 paid attendees each day, beating early projections of 50,000. And while main sponsor Budweiser dominated all beer sales, local chefs from Tony Lukes and Starr Restaurants were on hand serving up food.

In a Friday press conference, Mayor Nutter pointed to another indicator of success for the city: hotel bookings.

“Labor Day weekend is normally a quiet holiday for the hospitality industry in the city,” the mayor said. “But the early reports we’re getting indicate substantially increased activity in our Center City hotels.”

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Mayor wasn’t the only one hearing reports of increased hotel and hospitality increases. Ed Grose of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association told the paper “this forthcoming weekend my members are telling me that they are doing very well,” and “the only different factor this year is the Budweiser Made in America Festival.”

Another argument the Mayor’s office and reporters are making this week for the success of the festival is the sudden influx of celebrity. From Kim Kardashian to former LA Laker Rick Fox to Beyonce, the festival attracted many celebrities to Philadelphia, some for the first time.

The mayor did tell 6 ABC that the concert may not make a profit and, when asked if the event will repeat next year, he said that Jay-Z and his people wanted a repeat event from the beginning but City Hall was unsure if it would be able to make it happen. Once true financial projections are finalized, it may give officials a better idea.



NBC Olympic Coverage A Boon For Struggling Network

In London this summer, all eyes will be on the thousands of athletes competing for gold in the Summer Olympics. But one formerly struggling contender has already taken a top prize: NBC. The struggling Peacock has been a perennial fourth place finisher among the largest U.S. networks. But by securing the rights to the Olympics, NBC has made their investment pay off and then some, possibly helping the network secure future projects in a quest to return to former glories.

According to the Baltimore Sun, NBC paid 1.18 billion for the rights to broadcast the games. This princely sum could have easily been a gateway to disaster, as skeptics across the world predicted that London was not ready for the games, after a series of shake-ups in transportation and security left key positions unfilled. But when the lights went down in Olympic Stadium Friday night, all doubts were silenced. When the smoke cleared and all the athletes had entered, NBC had hosted the most highly rated opening ceremonies in the history of the summer games.

With 40.7 million viewers, the opening ceremonies coverage shattered the previous record, set by the summer games in Atlanta, by 900,000 viewers, and increased a full 17 percent over the Beijing opening ceremonies. But the ratings grab did not end there. Saturday night’s coverage, which featured Ryan Lochte’s victory over U.S. team leader Michael Phelps, boasted 28.7 million viewers. That number also set a new record for the first night of official competition in a Summer Olympics.

The returns match an increase in sports viewership over the course of this year, including higher-than-ever ratings for the NBA and NFL. The Olympics is not the first in a series of successes for NBC Sports, a division that dominated ratings last fall with its NFL coverage in Prime Time. Pushing viewers to watch in Prime Time is a strategy NBC hoped to continue in their Olympic coverage.

According to a report from the LA Times, NBC took a calculated risk with their Olympic coverage. As many viewers noted, the opening ceremonies were broadcast via tape delay, not live, so that they could be shown in Prime Time, when ad dollars are most expensive. According to viewership studies, viewers have shown renewed interest in watching sporting events live, as opposed to on DVR. By broadcasting on tape delay, NBC risked alienating potential viewers. The network believes that the ratings it has seen so far are a testament to this strategy paying off, as it continued to broadcast its most popular events via tape delay through the weekend.

“This audience number for the London opening ceremony is a great early sign that our strategy of driving people to watch NBC in prime time is working,” NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus wrote in a statement.

The move has not been without backlash, as angry viewers took to social media to protest the move, calling for more live broadcasts. These moves, along with securing exclusive rights to American stars like Michael Phelps, have angered media outlets and viewers alike. But if these staggering ratings trends continue, NBC execs may be ok with it.