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Badvertising: The World of Poorly Chosen Ad Campaigns

Sometimes advertisements become unintentional forms of entertainment.  Have you ever seen an ad that has made you wonder why companies chose to let it see the light of day?  After learning about a recent tragic advertising mishap, I decided to see other company’s forays into bad taste.  If you love cringe worthy ads, you’ll like this roundup of some truly heinous examples of badvertising.


Help Me I’m Poor: New Report Shows That Americans Are Overworked And Underpaid

Every American worker

Do you have a nagging feeling that you’d be earning nearly double the amount of your current salary if the economy was better?  Well wage slave, there’s some good news and bad news!  The good news is that it isn’t all in your head.  A report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the American economy is going through a period of wage stagnation.  The bad news is that their numbers were taken from 2002 to 2012, so wages were awful well before the economic crash of 2008.

Between 2002 and 2012 wages were either stagnant or declined for the entire bottom 70% of the wage distribution.  Wages may have been at their worst in the past 10 years, but these numbers come after a few decades of poor wage growth.  Essentially the American wage has been in decline since 1979.  Workers saw a brief period of growth thanks to internet boom in the 90s, but even then those who experienced a wage increase were in very specialized fields.

The average worker has seen a meager 5% wage increase from 1979 to 2012, despite the fact that worker productivity on average has been skyrocketing.  Essentially all of your after work whiskey rants are true, you ARE working way too hard for much less pay than you deserve.

Get used to it America

The news gets even worse.  Wages aren’t the only thing that has decreased, workers benefits like healthcare and paid time off have dropped off along with earnings.  The college wage premium (the wage held by workers with college degrees over workers without degrees) has grown much more slowly over the past decade in comparison to 20 years ago.  If that didn’t make you depressed, you should also know that corporate profits are at an all-time high in this country.

This may be shocking to you, but this isn’t news to the average economist.  People know that there’s a problem, but have no idea how to fix it.  Some workers have tried striking, but walk outs and protests won’t be able to fix the problem.  Despite the fact that many Americans think corporations could stand to pay their employees more, they’re also rabidly opposed to making it happen since they’re worried that the “job creators” will leave towns and states if they’re forced to pay their employees a living wage.    Washington D.C.’s infamous living wage bill was passed by a vote, but it seems like Mayor Vincent Gray is stalling on signing the controversial bill into law.

Currently we’re at an impasse, we know that there’s a problem but the public and the people in power can’t agree on what to do.  If you’re affected by low wages, your best bet is to take on a 2nd job and forgo eating, clothing yourself, and taking care of your children.

They’ll be fine


Chris Christie Reveals New Scholarship Opportunities


Role Reversal

In a recent interview, Chris Christie stated, “Opportunities for good-paying jobs all begin with access to high-quality education and training, whether it’s colleges and universities, vocational or technical schools, or other kinds of specialized training that prepares students for a successful future.” A man of his word, Christie revealed that he’s creating new kinds of scholarship opportunities – particularly geared toward women and minorities – on June 25th. This slew of new scholarships, called the NJ-GIVS, are helping students enroll in certificate programs – such as tech school – at all 19 of the New Jersey county colleges.

Higher education has been a big matter of discussion in our state ever since the recession. The news has recently been covering the re-investment of state funds into higher education as a solution for the state’s stagnant job market and otherwise slow-to-recover economy. Since most New Jersey residents think this is and was a much-needed economic decision, they’re also very excited about the influx of new scholarships.

But it’s not just the economy that Christie is aiming to improve. According to Mark Larkins, the head of the Schools Development Authority, providing these opportunities will bring more women and minorities into manual labor trades, changing the state of the New Jersey job market for the better. Currently, less than one percent of the workers on construction projects are female. New Jersey legislators think that this will provide incentive for women to take advantage of these available and high-paying jobs.

Most females and minorities are eligible for these scholarships. Qualification merely requires that the applicant be, of course, female or a member of a determined group of minorities; New Jersey residents and legal US citizens or immigrants; and proven submitters of the federal financial aid forms to determine financial eligibility.

County colleges in New Jersey have varying tuition rates, but they max out around $4,000 per year. While a nominal cost in comparison with other state schools, it’s still not a bill that many can foot, which keeps them ineligible for even some labor job markets. Thus, it will help to solve the issue of getting those below the poverty line into the job market as well. By encouraging all types of New Jersey citizens to get into the construction and manual labor market, we’re diversifying the work force; by providing them with quality education, we’re improving it. All-around, the introduction of these new scholarships by Christie is, by and large, a great way to stimulate the economy.


Paula Deen And The Perils Of Building Your Buisness Around Your Personality

There is no stick of butter large enough to help Deen now

If you have an internet connection, functional ears, and staunchly liberal or conservative friends on Facebook you know about everything that’s happened with Paula Deen.  Long story short, because of a disturbing lawsuit filed against Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers from a former employee word got out that Deen had made some racist remarks.  As word spread her sponsors dropped her fast, and now people are wondering what will happen to the woman who used to be America’s favorite chef and top butter enthusiast.

This blog post won’t be about whether or not what Deen said was inappropriate, or if her sponsor’s decision to drop her was wrong.  Deen didn’t get fired for expressing her views, nor did she get fired for being sexist/racist/butterist.  Deen was fired because she was a very public figure for a lot companies, and she made the mistake of saying/doing something to upset the public.  Deen has made the mistake that others have made in the past, and her whole debacle highlights the particular problem of building a business empire that’s solely based on the presentation and promotion of a person’s personal life story.

People loved Paula Deen’s feel good recipes, but what really propelled the woman into stardom was her life story and personality.  Deen lived in poverty and was in an abusive relationship with her husband, and her comfort food gave her a way to escape the horrors of her relationship.  Her food wasn’t just a mental escape; it offered a physical escape from her husband and poverty.  She started off selling her sandwiches and dishes to locals, and after getting in touch with the producer and celebrity Gordon Elliott she was rocketed into stardom.

Paula was the perfect person to bring back southern food.  She could cook like nobody’s business, she had an adorable southern accent, and she looked like she could easily be a stand-in for your average food loving southern mom, grandmother, or aunt.  He trade mark “hey ya’ll” catchphrase and her origin story made her a beloved public figure, and soon her sponsors were selling the Paula Deen persona as much as they were selling her food.

It’s important to note that the lawsuit that got Deen in trouble had little to do with her, and focused on the wrong doings of her brother Bubba.  Deen being associated with Bubba would have been enough to shake her empire, but her racist remarks are what put the nail in the Deen empire’s coffin.  When people found out about Deen’s dark side, her image as the loving southern mother figure who wanted to feed you comfort food was utterly shattered.   The persona that made her popular was gone, and the companies that were associated with her know that she would eventually start to be revenue poison.

Deen’s meteoric rise and fall shows the perks and perils of having your business propped up by her personality.  Her southern charmer personality made her famous, but when people found out about her less desirable parts of her personality she was ruined.   Beware of the allure of making yourself a brand.  Once you become a brand, you better forget about being a person.


Carnival Cruise Lines Shocks Investors With Hefty 2nd Quarter Gains

You don’t need to be a genius to know that Carnival Cruise Lines has been having a rough year and a half.  When the Costa Concordia went down in January 2012 it took a lot of the company’s revenue and popularity with it, and since then the company has been trying to win back public favor by offering as many discounts as possible.  Despite cutting ticket prices, giving free upgrades, and cross honoring cruise tickets Carnival Cruise Lines is still struggling to win back customers.

Despite the fact that people are avoiding being stuck a ship that could cover them in feces, the cruise company actually had a pretty decent 2nd quarter.  Despite two ship disasters occurring with months of one another, Carnival Cruise Lines managed to earn $41 million for their second quarter profit.  Their earnings more than surpassed the modest estimates most financial experts predicted, even though their bookings for 2013 are far less than they were in 2012.  Some of their success may have to do with the amount of companies they know.  Most people don’t want to take a cruise with Carnival, but they would be more than willing to set sail with Holland America and Princess.  Those two cruise companies are owned by Carnival Cruises, but since they don’t heavily advertise with the Carnival name most consumers think they’re vacationing with a totally different company.  Fuel costs dropping by 10% also probably didn’t hurt their profits either.

It seems like their discounts have helped keep the company afloat for now, but some investors think that their extensive discounts will cause problems in the future.   Carnival Cruises can’t keep winning the public back with discounts, eventually they’ll have to start charging full price is they want to continue being profitable in the long run.  The company is fully aware of the problem, which is why they’re planning on rolling out a massive marketing campaign in the upcoming months.  The company just finished putting the finishing touches on refurbishing the Triumph, and they’re ready to get back to business as usual.


Packages Won’t Save a Possible Box Office Bomb, But Zombies Will

Imagine that the Hollywood movie industry is like a giant high school.  Now imagine that you’re just an average ridiculously good looking student that looks like they’re in their 20s heading to the cafeteria for lunch.  A sullen looking teenager you’ve never seen before sits at your lunch table, and before you can say hello he starts telling his sob story.  Back at his old high school he used to be a god.  People loved him, he had parties every weekend, and even though they would miss him, people were beyond excited to hear that he was transferring to your school that’s known for being awesome.  He changed his look to fit in with the new students, but as soon as he did his old friends decided that they hated him and abandoned him.  And he was equally horrified to learn that nobody at your school was excited to meet him or befriend him.

He spent so much time and money on his new look and attitude that he’s broke and he needs a way to get back on top.  He mentions that he’s throwing a huge party this weekend for his old friends and new friends, and that he wants you to be one of the guests of honor (even though you just met this kid and don’t think he’s all that amazing).  Even though he’s making his party seem like it’s going to be the best thing on earth, he frequently admits during his story/rant that he doesn’t think that the party will be that great and that it won’t turn out how he wanted to.  When you ask about what kind of booze will be there he says that there will only lukewarm cheap beer and half empty bottle of vodka that’s cut with water.  Despite the fact that he mentions that he thinks his own party will suck, he still wants his special guests to pay $10 at the door for the privilege of going to the party that he isn’t even all that excited to be throwing.

This harrowing tale is full of metaphors.  The ridiculously good looking and way too old to be here high school student is the moving going public, and the whiny depressed new kid is World War Z.  World War Z started off as a successful novel that focused on a variety of characters dealing with a worldwide zombie outbreak.  The entire premise makes it sound like it was born to be a summer movie block buster, but thanks to a ballooning budget, several delays, and a last minute re-write the movie isn’t living up to its high expectations.   People involved in its production have stated that they aren’t happy with their end result, and rabid fans of the book (like me) are disappointed with the changes to the plot or the dumbing down of the message.

Despite the movie’s litany of issues, studio executives have come up with a revolutionary (awful) idea to make back their money.  Fans who are excited to see the film had the option to pay $50 for a mega ticket.  The package is pretty good, it included an early screening at one of five participating theaters in L.A., Houston, San Diego, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, plus a small popcorn, a pair of World War Z collectible 3D glasses, a movie poster, and a digital download when the film becomes available on home video.  Some people think that the mega-ticket could pave the way for more perks like it.  Either way, it seems like just having a movie with zombies in it is enough for the moving going public.


Retailers Clash With Banks Over Usage Fees

Does it ever piss you off when you have to use an ATM that isn’t your banks because you know that you’re going to be charged a useless usage fee?  Do you ever rage when you look at you bank statements and see a bunch of crappy fees you weren’t even aware that you were paying?  There are more people who aren’t raging on The Consumerist that share your bank rage, corporations are also pretty much sick and tired of paying fees for credit cards and debit cards.

A lot of people are unaware of the fact that every business that accepts credit or debit payments have to pay the companies that issue them a small fee for processing. Over the years retailer’s usage fees have been slowly climbing along with our fees, and some retailers are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore.

Target Corp, Macy’s Inc., and about 15 other huge retailers are suing Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. over their outrageous fees.  This isn’t the first time retailers and companies have clashed over fees.  In fact this lawsuit is actually sort of a follow up to a previous multi-billion dollar settlement from an anti-trust suit that the plaintiffs dropped out of about a year ago.  The accusing companies claim that the terms they agreed too still gives Visa and MasterCard too much freedom to raise fees in the future, and they claim that they’re still paying significantly higher costs to process Visa and MasterCard branded cards.  A spokeswoman for the Electronic Payments Coalition claims to no one is really that surprised by the new lawsuit, and most likely flipped a hardy middle finger when asked if the companies she represents cares about how the plaintiffs feel.



Kohl’s Corp

Staples Inc.

J.C. Penny Co. Inc.

Office Depot Inc.

L Brands Inc.

Office Max Inc.

Big Lots Stores Inc.

Abercrombie & Fitch Co.

Ascena Retail Group Inc.

Saks Inc.

Bon-Ton Stores Inc.

Chico’s FAS Inc.

Luxottica Group SPA

American Signature

Wal-Mart and CostCo were totes on board with opposing the settlement, but for whatever reasons they opted out of the large laqsuit and said that they may choose to file their own separate suits.



AMC And Other Theaters Outraged With Disney Over Ticket Revenue Divide For About A Week

This is probably the least disturbing picture I found when I googled “evil disney”

It’s no secret that owning a movie theater can kind of suck if you want to make money.  Sure people flock to it every night to see the latest releases, but the movie studios make more money from the meat in the seats than the theaters do.  You can thank profit hungry movie executives for the $6.00 box of stale cookie dough bites you just paid for, but some people in the theater business are sick and tired of movie studios reaping the benefits of their hard work.

Iron Man 3 is scheduled to be released next Friday, and unless you live under a rock/hate Marvel you know that it’s expected to be one of the highest grossing movies of the year (if not the highest grossing because seriously its Iron Man).  Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Holdings were supposed to start selling online tickets for the movie, but after realizing that they were getting completely screwed by Disney on the revenue split they decided to refuse to sell them.  Soon other theater franchises (which apparently exist) followed suit.

Usually most movie studios and movie theaters split ticket sales revenue “50-50″, but in reality it’s more like 40-60 or 30-70 because it’s pretty common for studios to request a bigger share of revenue for high-profile releases.  Apparently this all started when movie studios and theater franchises met at Cinema-Con when Disney made a big presentation about their upcoming pictures.  When Disney announced that they wanted to renegotiate how cinema chains split up the ticket revenue between studios for their upcoming picture, AMC put their foot down.

It isn’t uncommon for movie studios and theaters to clash over ticket revenue, in fact it seems like every four years there’s a new battle royale over who gets what.  People are crying foul this time because it seems like Disney is doing this in anticipation for their upcoming big movies.  Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise a few months ago, and there are rumors that the company is going to attempt to release a new movie every year after 2015.  Disney bought up Marvel years ago, but now the rights other studios had to Marvels hit franchises (X-Men, Spiderman, Daredevil) are set to expire.  If all goes well Disney is going to have an extremely profitable next couple of years, and they want to keep a lot of that revenue to themselves.

Despite AMC’s loud objection to any price changes over a week ago, it was reported yesterday that AMC and Disney reached an agreement.  Since the deal’s details have not been made public, one can only assume that AMC probably didn’t win this one since they were up against a company that technically has one of the world’s largest naval fleets because of their insane amount of cruise ships.


Investment News: Gold Prices Fall, Investors Predict the End of Days

Swim now Scrooge, your day of judgement shall come soon enough

Have you heard the old saying about “sure things” in the world of investment, and how that there is no such thing as a sure investment?  There technically isn’t anything that’s a sure thing when you’re in the investing game, but there are a few things people consider “sure things” because they clearly don’t want to listen to the advice of others.  Gold is one of those mythical sure thing investments, since it’s played such a big roll currency values and in electronic manufacturing a lot of people invest in it because they can’t image a time where it wouldn’t be a valuable commodity.

Today was gold traded at its lowest price in two years.  The low value was surprising, but it certainly doesn’t mean that gold is going to lose its value over night.  Gold closing at $1477 doesn’t signal the end of the world, but if you tell that to gold investors you’re probably going to get a punch to the face followed by a stream of frenzied screaming.  Some people aren’t taking the news well, and they’re predicting a future slump in gold prices.


Atari Declares Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, Millions of 20 and 30 Somethings Weep Bitter and Nostalgic Tears

Good night sweet prince, may pixelated and absurdly difficult angels fly thee to thy rest

After four decades in the video game industry Atari declared chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday.  On Monday January 21st joysticks and comically large buttons fell silent as news spread of Atari’s business troubles.  This isn’t the first time Atari has run into financial trouble, despite being hit hard financially the company managed to survive the North American video game crash in the 80s.  Lately the company has been focusing on releasing their classic games and developing new games for smartphones and tablets, and so far their decision to focus on a new market has been a good one.

The bankruptcy news was surprising to many because the company had a relatively good year.  For 2012 their digital and licensing revenue grew and contributed to a sizable chunk of their overall earnings.  The bankruptcy filing had nothing to do with revenue, and everything to do with a bad business relationship.

Like it was previously stated Atari managed to survive the great video game crisis of the 1980s, but the company was a far cry from the industry giant it used to be.  Back then it was a bit easier to copy a game and pass it off as your own, so majority of popular Atari games were being bootlegged for other systems (look at the first picture, notice anything off?).  Even though almost every pizza place and hip dentist office had a Pacman arcade machine in their lobby, they were also losing a substantial share of the market.  The NES debuted in North America and people decided that they would rather control a plumber in a bizarre mushroom induced fantasy world than help a frog cross the street.

This business savvy frog clearly has somewhere important to be. Why won’t you help him?!

In 1984 the company was sold to Jack Tramiel and was renamed the Atari Corporation, and for the next decade or so they released one failed system after another.  Eventually the company tried to sue Nintendo for allegedly having a monopoly on the video game industry, and they promptly and hilariously lost the case.  In 1998 Hasbro took over the company and it became a part of their new toy line Hasbro Interactive, and soon Hasbro Interactive was taken over by Infogrames Entertainment.

The Atari we’ve come to know and love today is the adorable pixilated child of Infogrames Entertainment, Atari’s French parent company.  In 2008 Infogrames Entertainment changed its name to Atari S.A., and since then has been riding a roller coaster of dizzying success and nauseating failure.  In December Atari S.A. announced that its main investor BlueBay was pretty sick of their crap, and that the credit agreement it had with BlueBay would lapse at the end of the year.

Eventually it looked like the only way to save the company was to declare bankruptcy and hope for a better tomorrow.  Yesterday both Atari S.A. and Atari U.S. declared bankruptcyin their respective countries.  The company hopes to either sell all of its assets or have solid restricting plan in 3-6 months, and if all goes well we may see the company re-emerge in a year or so.  Until then you’ll have to rely on your cheap TV plug in systems for your 16-bit fix.

Or you could be awesome and buy your own arcade cabinet like a boss