TIME Apple

The New Apple Ads Will Make You Feel a Million Feelings

Lionizing the history of music and then some

Ads from big, consumer-oriented tech companies have followed a pattern over the past decade or so—presenting software, services, and gizmos as bringing people together, in perfect harmony. The ads for the new Apple Music service fall right in line.

One of the three new spots features a voiceover from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails (and Beats, which Apple acquired for more than $3 billion) telling us that the service treats music “less like digital bits and more like the art that it is, with a sense of respect and discovery.” And Apple, he says, means to “actually accommodate and support the artists who make the music, and not just the top-tier artists, but the kids in their bedrooms, too.” The implication is that Apple will do this better than services like Spotify.

Whether this turns out to be the case, only time will tell.

In another spot, the focus is entirely on the history of recorded music. It depicts all different kinds of people, in all different kinds of places, enjoying music. It starts with the first phonograph in 1888, and courses through hi-fi systems, jukeboxes, cassette tapes, and computers, and ends with, of course, Apple Music, which is depicted here as the culmination of all this history, the technological endpoint, which of course it isn’t.

The third spot is the most true to the holistic, global vibe that has become obligatory in ads from big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple itself. And it’s the most branding—oriented. It shows people around the world doing things—running, dancing, crying, doing sit-ups—while listening to Pharrell’s “Freedom.” The way the music is muffled for the part showing a woman crying is a nice touch.

Don Draper was depicted in the series finale of Man Men as having created the iconic “Teach the World to Sing” Coca-Cola ad. Being a fictional character, he obviously didn’t, but the way his idea was presented—as being born of true sentiment and a genuine wish for global togetherness, wasn’t really far off reality. He was trying to sell sugar-water, sure. But that’s not all he was doing. And we can presume Apple believes in its own image, too, even as it’s trying to separate people from their money by presenting that image to them. It’s all in the game.

TIME Advertising

These Sausage Commercials Will Haunt Your Dreams

Television set
Getty Images

These spots are the latest entry in the terrify-the-consumer category

If you’ve watched “Mad Men,” or just know anything about the advertising industry, you know that ads historically have appealed to our aspirations. They are the stuff of our dreams. Lately, though, it seems like they want to be the stuff of our nightmares, too.

The latest entry in the terrify-the-consumer category comes from Johnsonville Sausage. The campaign is a serialized Father’s Day tale called “Bratfast in Bed,” depicting a Dad waking up to his family serving him brats. Things quickly get weird as he wakes up repeatedly, apparently from dreams-within-dreams: his sausage comes alive, his family turns into sausages, a giant anthropomorphized brat enters the room to serve him a smaller brat, he himself turns into a sausage, and so on.

The spots of full of perfect (well, in context) little details, as when the big humanoid sausage (which, by the way, has a sausage for a nose) makes little squeaking noises as it moves.

This is a far cry from Johnsonville advertising of yesteryear, which was as realist and pedestrian as could be. Spots from the ’90s might as well have been from the ’50s: Johnsonville eaters were depicted as regular guys who liked campin’ and fishin':

But everybody’s hopping on the surrealist bandwagon now. “Bratfast in Bed” is “basically sausage ‘Inception’,” Scott Bell, group creative director for Johnsonville’s agency, Droga5, told Adweek. “It’s one man’s journey.”

This campaign comes on the heels of Johnsonville’s equally weird (and generally funnier) “Family” campaign, wherein “non-traditional family” took on a new meaning:

TIME coca-cola

The Iconic Coca-Cola Bottle Is Getting a Surprising Update

Coca-Cola Buys North American Bottling Operations Of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. For $12.3 Billion
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Coca-Cola can and bottle images appear on the side of a trailer outside the Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. bottling facility in Niles, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010.

It's pretty sweet

Coca-Cola has come up with a new bottle: one made entirely of plant material—including sugarcane.

It’s called the “PlantBottle.” Coke debuted it as the World Expo in Milan, Italy, a food-tech conference.

Coke said in a statement that the PlantBottle represents a “more responsible plant-based alternative to packaging traditionally made from fossil fuels and other nonrenewable materials.” The company will use the container across its beverage brands: soft drinks, water, juice, and tea.

PlantBottle is “the globe’s first fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable materials,” said Nancy Quan, Coke’s global research and development officer, in the statement.

The bottles are still plastic, but made from plants including sugarcane and byproducts of processing sugarcane, rather than petroleum products, which leave a much larger environmental footprint. It was developed in partnership with Virent, a processor of biofuels and biochemicals.

Coke made something of a splash in 2009, when it announced that its containers would be made up of 30% plant material. It has sold 35 million of those bottles since then. Coke says those bottles have kept a total of 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from being released into the atmosphere.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Coke plans widespread distribution of the bottles by 2020.

TIME Fast Food

These Resurrected Fast Food Mascots Have 1 Thing in Common

McDonald's Hamburglar
McDonalds McDonald's Hamburglar

It's not just that they're back from the beyond

It’s easy to dismiss the recent trend toward bringing back classic corporate mascots like the Hamburglar and Colonel Sanders as indicating a lack of imagination among fast-food marketers. And there’s probably some truth to the comparison between them and the Hollywood studios that insist on unnecessarily remaking movies like Point Break.

But there’s something else going on here, too: in many cases, the mascots are, for some reason, somewhat odd. Burger King’s “The Burger King” was meant to be that way from the get-go (in his most recent incarnation, that is), but Colonel Sanders wasn’t. And yet, look at what they’ve done to him for KFC’s new TV spots:

It’s not just that it’s bizarre of KFC to resurrect its actual, decades-dead founder to make TV spots (that is, if anything in American TV commerialdom can be considered bizarre). It’s the whole vibe. Darryl Hammond, formerly of Saturday Night Live, is surely a talented mimic, but he comes off here as someone you wouldn’t leave alone with your daughter.

Burger King’s most recent resurrection of the imaginatively named “The Burger King” retains his chilling persona, which was devised in the early 2003 as an “ironic” twist on the mascot that the company had employed in various forms (by turns regal and cartoonish) since 1955, when the first Burger King restaurant was opened in Miami. Burger King retired “The Creepy King” (as he was often called) in 2011.

Now he’s back. Burger King paid $1 million to have the King, with his plastic, rictus face, appear as part of boxer Floyd Mayweather’s “entourage” for the fighter’s match against Manny Pacquiao last month. Burger King was one of just three companies that would go anywhere near Mayweather, a convicted domestic abuser. (The others, Swiss watchmaker Hublot and fantasy-sports site FanDuel, limited their presence to brand placement).

You don’t spend $1 million on a one-off, so now the King is back with a new TV spot, too:

The thing about the King is that he amounts to a single joke—one that was sort of funny for a brief period. That was no doubt part of the thinking when Burger King dropped the campaign four years ago. His comeback doesn’t take the character anywhere, because there’s really nowhere for him to go. Contrast that with what Jack In The Box has done with its “Jack’s Back” campaign, which, remarkably, has been running for 21 years. Because Jack actually speaks and has a personality, they can do all manner of things with him, and they have: he’s been a corporate wheel and a basement stoner, all without losing his essential personality.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, has brought back some of its iconic characters, including the Hamburglar, who first appeared as a resident of “McDonaldland” in 1971. Until a few weeks ago, he hadn’t been seen in TV spots since 2002. If the idea is to recall McDonald’s glory days, the natural inclination of brand marketers to “update” everything beyond recognition seems to have sabotaged the goal. The new Hamburglar seems like he was designed by committee, perhaps one headed by Lindsey Naegle from The Simpsons. The formerly impish-but-ultimately-likeable crook is now a mysterious character who has apparently been living in the suburbs, maybe in the witness protection program. He’s roguish and hunky, like something out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel.

In the old days, when brand campaigns were highly expensive, labor-intensive propositions, companies would spend months if not years crafting them before finally settling on something that they meant to least for a long time and be closely identified with the brand. Now campaigns are tried out in public, and if they don’t take, it’s not necessarily a big deal—marketers can just drop them and try something else. And if they run out of ideas, as more of them seem to be doing all the time, they can always go back to the well. It might be lazy, and it might not do much for the brand, but it likely won’t do much damage either.

TIME Cable

The Real Reason You Hate Your Cable Company

Comcast Time Warner Merger Testify
Stephen Crowley—The New York Times/Redux Cable company executives and others who will testify are sworn in at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing to examine Comcast's proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable in Washington on April 9, 2014.

And how to get a better deal out of your service

Yet another survey shows that cable providers are among the most hated companies among consumers.

But it’s not all cable companies—mainly just the big ones. A survey by Consumer Reports ranks Comcast and Time Warner Cable at the very bottom of cable, telephone, and Internet companies. You might remember them as the firms that recently tried to merge, but then withdrew from the deal when it became clear that the government wasn’t going to allow it. Now Time Warner Cable is seeking a merger with Charter Communications, which also fared poorly in the survey.

Comcast and Time Warner landed at the very bottom of the survey along with Mediacom, a regional provider, on consumer attitudes toward bundled services.

Not surprisingly, the survey also found that younger people are far more likely to favor Internet-streamed video over cable, either supplementing their cable viewing with it or dropping cable altogether.

That might be part of the reason that cable companies are apparently very open to negotiating fees with disgruntled customers. Nearly half the respondents who tried such negotiations were successful in getting as much as $50 knocked off their monthly bills, getting a new promotional rate, or getting extra premium channels at no extra cost.

Customers with fiber-to-the-home Internet service like that provided by Verizon FiOS and satellite-TV companies DirecTV and Dish were in general much more satisfied with their service, mainly because of the high data speeds and better reliability.

TIME food industry

This Is the Big Lie About Your Olive Oil

Bottle of olive oil
Sue Wilson—Alamy

New findings cast further doubt

The National Consumers League tested 11 different olive oils purchased at various supermarkets, and found that six of them, despite being labeled “extra virgin,” weren’t extra virgin at all.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given extensive reports of lax standards and outright fraud in the olive-oil business. In fact, the findings are better than some earlier studies that indicated some olive oils were adulterated with other kinds of oil, such as soybean oil, or were made with olives from countries other than Italy, despite label claims of “Made in Italy.”

These practices were revealed in a widely shared New York Times interactive feature last year that was based on a couple of different studies.

The NCL’s testing comes with a load of caveats. It wasn’t a “study” so much as a more-or-less random bit of testing. Puzzlingly, while the NCL listed the five oils that passed the test, it didn’t name the six that didn’t.

That’s because the companies whose products failed the tests made “a huge stink” over the results, said Sally Greenberg, the NCL’s executive director. Those companies complained that only a single bottle of each variety was tested, and so the results were unfair, since occasionally a single bottle will go bad thanks to exposure to light or some other environmental factor. She said the NCL might test the same products again in “six or seven months,” using a different lab, and if the results are repeated, the NCL will reveal which products failed. “If it happens twice, well then maybe we’re on to something,” she said.

In 2011, the University of California at Davis found that about 69% of the olive oil sold in the United States is adulterated.

The NCL tested olive oil purchased in supermarkets in the Washington, D.C. area. None of the products they tested contained any oil that didn’t come from olives, but six of them, despite labels indicated the contrary, didn’t meet the standards for calling it “extra virgin.” The testing included lab analysis and tasting by experts.

“The results of our olive oil testing reveal that, while consumers are buying and paying extra for olive oil labeled EVOO, too much of the olive oil bought off the shelf isn’t the real deal,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the NCL, in a statement.

The five that did pass muster were:

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Trader Joe’s Extra Virgin California Estate Olive Oil

Trader Joe’s 100% Italian Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Lucini Premium Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil

TIME Gadgets

You’ll Never Guess Who Just Perfected the Keyboard

KFC

Consider eating and typing solved

KFC is furnishing some German diners with Bluetooth-enabled paper keyboards so they can type into their phones and tablets with greasy fingers, obviating the need to hose down their devices with liquid detergent after lunch. It’s a brilliant, weird, slightly disturbing development.

The rechargeable “Tray Typer” replaces the usual piece of paper that comes atop food trays agh the fast-food chain. The product was developed by a company called Serviceplan and used by KFC as part of an ad campaign. Maybe the best thing about Tray Typer is that it’s reusable — after being wiped down, of course. Serviceplan claims that during the campaign in Germany, every single Tray Typer was taken home by consumers.

It seems unlikely that KFC will make Tray Typer a mainstay in its restaurants. It’s basically a constant reminder of how greasy its food is. Not that people don’t realize this, of course, but it’s usually not anything a food company, even one that’s essentially in the grease business, wants to continually highlight.

The Verge called the Tray Typer a “first world solution to a first world problem.”

This isn’t KFC’s first foray into the peripherals business, or even the strangest. In Japan last year, it offered keyboards, mice, and thumb drives in fried-chicken.

TIME Fast Food

Here’s How McDonald’s Became the King of Burgers

Signs are posted on the exterior of a McDonald's restaurant on April 22, 2015 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Signs are posted on the exterior of a McDonald's restaurant on April 22, 2015 in San Francisco.

As the iconic burger chain turns 75, it faces some of its biggest challenges ever

It is in no way surprising that McDonald’s recent troubles have drawn so much media attention. It’s not just because it’s a huge company, it’s because it is one of a small handful of corporations that are closely associated with the idea America itself, part of our national identity. And that has been the case for most of McDonald’s 75-year history.

There are many reasons for this, but the chief one might have been expressed best by the quotation TIME chose to open its September 17, 1973 cover story on McDonald’s: “The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they nourish themselves.” The quote came from The Physiology of Taste, written in 1826 by Jean Brillat-Savarin.

 McDonald's 1973
TIME

The cover story was titled “The Burger That Conquered the Country.” At the time—and for decades thereafter—nobody could seriously argue the title’s point. McDonald’s has faced stiff competition all along, from Burger King, from Wendy’s, from Taco Bell, and from any number of other fast-food chains. But none of those competitors ever came close to McDonald’s, especially in terms of image. McDonald’s—even now, when it faces some of its greatest challenges ever—is America’s burger joint.

In the 1973 article (in which McDonald’s main product is rather quaintly referred to as a “ham burger”—two words), TIME declared that if Brillat-Savarin’s quote was correct, “America’s destiny manifestly depends to no small degree on the ham burgers, French fries and milkshakes served beneath the golden arches of McDonald’s.”

Though it would grow much, much larger in the years ahead, McDonald’s was by 1973 a fully realized entity. It employed 130,000 employees in nine countries, and operated 2,500 outlets in the United States. And although Time declared that it “gone from a uniquely American to a truly global operation,” its image remained fully American, as it still does 42 years later—for better and, in some respects, worse.

Our destiny since then has manifested itself largely in our waistlines, a concern that in 1973 was just starting to creep into the national dialogue. The company most often cited by health-conscious critics of our food economy is, of course, McDonald’s. Our economic destiny meanwhile has in recent years manifested itself in the form of a growing wealth gap, with low-wage retail jobs taking the place of vanishing, high-wage manufacturing jobs. The company most-often cited in discussions of this problem (along with Wal-Mart) is, again, McDonald’s.

In the past few years, these trends have hit critical mass, to McDonald’s detriment. Consumer tastes for quick meals remained static for decades. Now they’re changing. Largely motivated by health concerns, but also by the desire for higher-quality eats, diners are increasingly opting for “fast-casual” outlets like Chipotle and Panera Bread. In response, McDonald’s is grasping for solutions that might not exist.

MORE These Are the States With the Most McDonald’s

At the same time, the company is facing pressure on the labor front. In 1973, most of its employees were teenagers working as burger flippers and “window girls.” Now, most of it workers are adults, many of them trying to support families. Last month, the company said it was raising wages and increasing benefits, though that applies only to employees of company-owned outlets, not to franchisees, meaning that most McDonald’s workers aren’t affected.

Officially, McDonald’s traces its history only back to 1955, when businessman Ray Kroc joined the company as a franchise agent. But the first McDonald’s (“McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant”) actually opened on May 15, 1940, in San Bernardino, Calif. Kroc, impressed by the company’s production-line methods, purchased the chain from the McDonald brothers in 1961, and set about turning it into a burger leviathan.

The chain now includes about 30,000 outlets (14,000 in the United States) in 119 countries and employs about 1.7 million people.

By 1987, TIME was declaring “McDonald’s as a corporation looks more and more like a case study in how to concentrate on providing one service exceedingly well.” Despite all the grief it was taking from critics of its fatty, salt-laden fare and its monolithic corporate image, the company was still largely beloved. “McDonald’s has become such a pervasive reference point in American life that many consumers think of the company as a public institution—one that is often more reliable than the post office or the phone company,” wrote Stephen Koepp.

The company’s growth continued more or less unabated until after the 2008 recession, when the restaurant industry as a whole was hit hard—fast food included. As recently as 2005, TIME was describing fast food as a “quintessentially American dining experience” and a “perfect expression of those bedrock values of efficiency, thriftiness and speed.” Total spending on fast food had quadrupled in the preceding decade.

But even then, fast-food chains—McDonald’s definitely included—saw the writing on the wall, and were working to change their images. Consumers still wanted to dine out, but they were looking for a more pleasant experience, and healthier food. Stores were redesigned, menus were upgraded. Then the recession hit.

Fallen Arches,” read a headline in Fortune magazine last November. “Can McDonald’s Get Its Mojo Back?” The company “has risen to the top of the fast-food chain by being comfortably, familiarly, iconically ‘mass market’ and so ubiquitous as to be the Platonic ideal of ‘convenient,'” wrote Fortune‘s Beth Kowitt. “Neither of these selling points, however, is as high as it was even a decade ago on Americans’ list of dining priorities. A growing segment of restaurant goers are choosing ‘fresh and healthy’ over ‘fast and convenient,’ and McDonald’s is having trouble convincing consumers that it’s both. Or even can be both.”

MORE This Is Why Shake Shack Will Never Be McDonald’s

So much for “providing one service exceedingly well.” If people don’t want that one service, what’s a company to do? McDonald’s is still looking for answers, from making burgers more customizable to adding various new menu items (and subtracting others) to launching attention-getting promotional campaigns with varying degrees of success.

Kale, of all things, provides a nice microcosm for McDonald’s challenges. Several months back, the company made fun of the trendy, often-mocked “superfood” in TV advertisements. Over a camera close-up of the lettuce on a Big Mac, the narrator intoned: “This will never be kale.” Earlier this month, McDonald’s started test-marketing a breakfast bowl consisting of turkey sausage, egg whites, and … kale.

It seems that McDonald’s still hasn’t decided which one service it wants to provide exceedingly well. But America will likely be watching.

TIME beverages

These Are the Top 5 Energy Drinks

Cans of Monster Beverage Corp. energy drink are displayed for sale at a convenience store in Redondo Beach, California, U.S.
Bloomberg—Getty Images

Rankings with buzz

Monster Beverage’s stock tanked on Monday before quickly turning itself around and ending the day up by more than 4% after the company released quarterly numbers that looked pretty terrible. While the energy-drink maker’s business slipped a bit, most of the drop in profits had to do with the company paying off its former distributors as it moves distribution to Coca-Cola, which has taken a big stake in Monster in order to get a toehold on the market as sales of traditional soft drinks continue to fall. Investors in the end seemed to realize that nothing actually looked any bleaker after all.

Monster reported $4.4 million in profits, compared with $95.2 million a year ago. Revenue was up, but only slightly, and a bit less than most analysts were expecting.

Despite all the short-term pain, Monster is banking on long-terms gains thanks to its relationship with Coca-Cola, which will soon own 17% of the company. That deal, announced last August, is expected to close in the current quarter. Monster is a close No. 2 to Red Bull in the market for energy drinks. While there are many small players in the market (including ones owned by big companies), Red Bull and Monster dominate, and it looks like a Battle Royale is shaping up between the two.

Market-share-wise, here’s how things break down according to the most recent figures available (2014) from Euromonitor International:

Red Bull – The original, launched in 1997, Red Bull enjoys about 43% of the market.

Monster – A 39% market share. The company clearly hopes to surpass Red Bull with Coke’s help, though Monster executives noted in their earnings call last week that both Red Bull and Rockstar have gained share recently.

Rockstar – A strong-but-distant No. 3, the independent Rockstar has about 10% of the market.

NOS – This Coke-owned brand is named after nitrous oxide, and is often sold in containers meant to look like nitrous tanks. Its market share is about 3%.

Amp – Owned by PepsiCo, Amp also has about 3% of the market.

 

TIME Security

Has Your Browser Been Hijacked by Fraudsters?

Heartbleed Extensions
Chromebleed

It's not unlikely, according to a sobering new study

Illicit “ad injectors” are infecting a not-insignificant proportion of Web browsers, according to a study by Google and the University of California.

The pieces of software replace the ads you’re supposed to be seeing with different, unapproved ones, hurting not only Internet surfers, but advertisers like Amazon and Wal-Mart (and many others), as well as publishers who lose revenues, the study authors said.

Ad injectors make their way into browsers through software downloads and browser extensions. Many users might not even know their browsers are afflicted with them. Google says it has identified more than 50,000 browser extensions and 34,000 software applications that send the fraudulent ads to browsers, pushing aside the ads that were supposed to show up.

Most alarmingly, about a third of the injectors are equipped to steal account credentials and hijack Web searches, returning results meant to benefit the fraudsters. More than 1,000 networks distribute the injectors, Google said, with many of them pushed by “affiliates” who get paid some pittance whenever somebody clicks on one of the ads.

The ads come from so-called “injection libraries,” often via legitimate ad networks. Advertisers big and small end up paying for injected ads they have no knowledge of.

Sometimes, the ads appear even on Web pages, such as Wikipedia, that don’t normally feature advertisements.

Google says that so far in 2015, it has received more than 100,000 complaints about injectors in its Chrome browser. The study indicates that all the major browsers are vulnerable.

And you’re not safe if you’re on a Mac. According to the study, 5.1% of all pageviews involving injected ads came from a computer running Windows. Macs accounted for 3.4%.

Fixing the problem isn’t easy. Google says it stepping up its monitoring of extensions for Chrome to ensure that they don’t run afoul of policy. Other browser makers do the same. But with so many extensions out there, much of the responsibility falls on users themselves to be hyper-vigilant when downloading software.

 

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