TIME Advertising

Here’s How Major FIFA Sponsors Are Reacting to the Scandal

After nine FIFA officials were arrested, sponsors are in the spotlight

The dollar figures associated with the FIFA are all outsize, including the amount of money it garners every year from marketing partnerships. In 2014, it was $177 million.

The corporations that contribute to that sum immediately became the target of scrutiny on Wednesday when the United States Department of Justice unsealed a 47-count indictment that charged nine FIFA officials and five sports marketing executives with racketing, wire fraud and money-laundering.

The indictment placed FIFA sponsors in a pickle: should they continue to market their products through a sport with millions of fans but whose governing body is allegedly seeping with corruption?

Cue sponsors’ delicate dance.

Visa Inc., which has partnered with FIFA since 2007, told The Wall Street Journal the investigations could cause the company to end its agreement, which runs until 2022. Visa said that it had informed the federation that it “will reassess its sponsorship” if FIFA fails to rebuild “a culture with strong ethical practices to restore the reputation of the games for fans everywhere”

Adidas AG told the Journal that it was monitoring the situation, as did Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Hyundai Motors said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

It’s safe to say FIFA’s sponsors are in a tough spot. Wednesday’s indictment was scalding, but it’s unlikely to deplete the sport’s massive fan following. An estimated 1 billion people watched at least one minute of the 2010 World Cup final. For comparison, 114.4 million people tuned into this year’s Super Bowl.

Like it or not, FIFA sponsors’ immediate reaction to Wednesday’s news is in line with how sponsors have reacted to other sports scandals. When the National Football League faced criticism this fall for how it handled players’ questionable conduct, companies like Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch voiced concern over the incidents but they never withdrew their sponsorships.

TIME Advertising

Liam Neeson Has a Very Particular Set Of Product-Endorsing Skills

He took the top spot in a new celebrity advertising ranking

Want your product to stand out? Then you best bring in a celebrity A-team—”A” for advertising.

The marketing research firm Nielsen company launched an offering Tuesday that ranks celebrities according to their sales influence. The company’s first leaderboard for its new “N-Score” service, which evaluates celebrities who have appeared in commercials during the first three months of the year, grades stars based on a variety of factors including public awareness and likeability, AP reports.

Irish actor Liam Neeson, who has starred in films such as Taken and Schindler’s List, and who performed roles in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, scored a top spot. He earned a so-called n-score of 94, sharing the lead with another Irish actor: former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan. Despite the tie, Nielsen deemed Neeson the winner in terms of influence over consumers.

The Nielsen service provides an alternative to the incumbent pitchmen rating service, Q Score from the firm Marketing Evaluations. The company hopes to provide marketers with better matches between audiences and celebrity endorsements.

As AP reporter David Bauder writes:

Besides attaching scores to celebrity endorsers, Nielsen intends to offer marketers detailed information about the personalities and habits of people who respond well to each celebrity so they can better match pitchmen and products, said Chad Dreas, Nielsen’s managing director of media analytics.

“What do they buy? Where do they shop? What do they watch?” said Dreas, describing the details Nielsen intends to sell.

Eighty-five percent of Americans familiar with Neeson view him positively, AP reports, citing Nielsen. Neeson, who appeared in an ad for the mobile gaming company Supercell Games, which makes the popular game Clash of Clans, also edged out Matthew McConaughey, who starred in commercials for cars this year. (For laughs, here are comedian Jim Carrey’s parodies of McConaughey’s Lincoln ads.)

Others celebrities who performed well in Nielsen’s rankings:

Jeff Bridges
Jennifer Garner
Natalie Portman
Sofia Vergara
Jim Parsons
Dennis Haysbert, and
J.K. Simmons

Given the magnetism of her magazine covers—flying off the newsstand into customer’s hands—one must wonder how Rihanna scores, too.

TIME Google

The Real Reason Google Loves Big Phones

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
JEWEL SAMAD—AFP/Getty Images Journalists take a look at Google's newest smartphone nexus 6 during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

For the search giant, size definitely matters

The trend towards bigger smartphones isn’t just a boon to the fat-fingered and farsighted among us — Google loves it too.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Google’s head of advertising Sridhar Ramaswamy said larger phones are helping Google hold the line on how much it charges for search ads. Google’s search ad business has been taking a hit as more and more web traffic has been migrating towards mobile. Mobile-based searches are more difficult to monetize because smaller screens make it harder to show effective ads or have customers complete purchases.

“As phones get bigger the space issue becomes less challenging,” Ramaswamy told the Journal. ” Referring to his Nexus 6 smartphone, he said, “This is essentially a tablet. People’s ability to navigate sites and fill out forms and such goes up tremendously.”

TIME fashion

This Is How Mad Men Changed the Way We Dress

Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) - Mad Men - Season 3,  Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Carin Baer/AMC
Carin Baer / AMC Lee Garner Jr. (Darren Pettie) and Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) in Mad Men

Suit sales have surged since 1998

While Mad Men may be over, its effect on menswear will no doubt live on in the U.S. and abroad. The show has long been charged with inspiring a fashion trend for men and women harkening back to the show’s 1960s setting. In a recent article, The Guardian said the Mad Men effect is very real. In fact, when the show began eight years ago, menswear was already seeing a surge in sales. Between 1998 and 2014, for example, suit sales doubles in the U.S.

Quartz, too, reported on the fashion effect inspired by the show. Tailored articles of men’s clothing sells for $4.8 billion each year, Quartz said, citing data from NPD Group. In fact, some of the biggest fashion brands, such as J. Crew, used the show as inspiration for new lines. Per the article:

Mad Men‘s brilliant costume design helped fuel that demand. It bred obsession among menswear publications, such as GQ, and created a crowd of guys wanting to emulate Draper’s dapper look. And then J.Crew stepped in to satisfy it, in the form of its slim-cut Ludlow suit.

The Guardian, meanwhile, characterized the men’s fashion that appears on the show as follows:

  • Michael Ginsberg embodied the style plate, or extroverted fashion sense
  • Don Draper was the traditionalist, or the person who sticks with what he already enjoys
  • Pete Campbell served as the old soul, or the man who dresses in older fashions
  • Roger Sterling was the rake, or the person inspired by fun menswear
  • Stan Rizzo dressed as the rebel, or the casual dresser

For the full list and explanations from the newspaper, see here.

Interestingly, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner explained the premise behind the 1971 Coca-Cola ad that played in the show’s final minutes in a recent interview.

TIME Advertising

Somehow This Olive Garden Commercial Is Pretty Touching

It's surprisingly tasteful

Olive Garden just released a 60-second ad that tugs at the heartstrings and celebrates family.

The spot, produced by Grey New York, features families singing together, reuniting after years apart and other touching moments captured in low-definition that suggests authenticity. There aren’t any cheesy food-shot clips, as noted by Adweek, which first reported on the new commercial’s release. Throughout the minute-long ad a sweet tone is set as a young girl and an older family member sing and play the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

“In our latest commercial, Olive Garden celebrates family–whether traditional, blended and extended, neighbors, co-workers or friends. It’s family that supports us, cheers us on, and grounds us in what truly matters,” according to the restaurant chain on YouTube. “That’s why at Olive Garden, we’re all family here.” The ad marks a departure from Olive Garden’s past ads and fits in more closely with with their tagline: “We’re all family here,” which Adweek said its used since 2013.

Olive Garden is owned by Darden Restaurants, which posted higher sales and solid earnings in its latest financial quarter. In fact, the company said Olive Garden celebrated same-store sales up 2.2% boost and growth for the second consecutive quarter for the first time since 2010, according to CNN Money.

Olive Garden made headlines recently with a new item on its men: a breadstick sandwich.

TIME Fast Food

Why Ronald McDonald Will Never, Ever Get Fired

Latin GRAMMY Street Parties In Phoenix With Conjunto Primavera
Mike Moore—WireImage for LARAS

McDonald's clown mascot has a job for eternity

Ronald McDonald has the kind of job security that most Americans can only dream of.

Responding to criticism over the fast-food giant’s use of the 52-year-old clown to market its food to children, CEO Steve Easterbrook made it clear that Ronald isn’t going anywhere. “With regards to Ronald, Ronald’s here to stay,” Easterbrook said at the fast-food giant’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Consumer advocacy organizations have criticized McDonald’s for its use of marketing tactics that appeal directly to children, particularly in the wake of increased concern over childhood obesity in the U.S.

The restaurant chain, which has endured sluggish sales at home and abroad and has closed hundreds of locations this year, is in the process of attempting a turnaround. Its plan includes a shift in the company’s marketing. Earlier this month, McDonald’s somewhat more nefarious mascot, the Hamburglar, was reinstated with a fresh look, to decidedly mixed reviews.

The company’s annual shareholder meeting was a primarily civil affair, despite the fact that thousands of protesters showed up at McDonald’s headquarters, calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage for the restaurant’s workers. In April, McDonald’s announced that it would increase the minimum wage for workers at its corporate-owned restaurants to $10 an hour by 2016.

On Thursday, McDonald’s shareholders approved a proposal to give the company’s investors an increased say on who is nominated to serve on the fast-food giant’s board of directors.

TIME Advertising

Michael Jordan’s New Ad Will Make You Feel Every Feeling

And, yeah, it's about sweat

Michael Jordan and Gatorade want to reclaim sweat. The two have teamed up to transform the body fluid into a badge of pride in a new Gatorade ad, which calls to mind some of the basketball legend’s iconic advertising work. In the one-minute spot, Jordan provides a stirring voiceover, intoning that “We love the sweat that comes from pushing yourself, the kind that comes from pushing the edge of potential.” Meanwhile athletes like Serena Williams perform daring acts of physical exertion as their sweat droplets fly toward the screen like bullets in The Matrix. (Sorry, couch potatoes, His Airness doesn’t seem to have any patience for the sweat stains you’re leaving on your living room armchair.)

The new spot continues MJ’s decades-long marketability, vouching for everything from Nike sneakers to Hanes underwear. And of course, there’s no way we could forget Gatorade’s iconic “Like Mike” ads from the ‘90s, which got a modern update earlier this year.

TIME Advertising

This Beer Ad Only Works When Women Pass By

It uses state-of-the-art "gender detection" software

 

German beer maker Astra wants women to know their purchasing power is important.

The beer brand has made an automated billboard that speaks only to women when they pass by, Engadget reports. The billboard comes equipped with a camera and “gender detection” software. It also responds to women according to their age from one of 70 different recorded responses. The billboard was developed by the ad agency Philipp und Keuntje and features German comic Uke Bosse.

Read next: What your beer says about you

MONEY Shopping

J.C. Penney Sued for Never Charging Full Price

JCPenney store at the Newport Mall in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Kena Betancur—Getty Images JCPenney store at the Newport Mall in Jersey City, New Jersey

The "original price" is a big fat lie.

J.C. Penney has long been in the business of giving merchandise “fake prices.” That’s how Ron Johnson described the retailer’s pricing strategy when he took over as CEO in 2012, pointing out that less than 1% of store sales were for items at full original price.

After the short-lived Johnson experiment in more transparent, less promotion-driven sales ended in monumental failure, J.C. Penney resorted to its old high-low pricing scheme, in which items were given inflated original prices solely for the purpose of making the inevitable discounts seem more impressive. It’s a classic sales strategy known as “price anchoring,” and J.C. Penney is hardly the only store known to engage in the practice.

Yet J.C. Penney is the one that has been hit with a class-action lawsuit in California federal court for its pricing strategies, a “massive, years-long, pervasive campaign” that has allegedly been tantamount to deceptive and fraudulent advertising. According to Reuters, the lead plaintiff in the suit purchased three blouses at J.C. Penney at a price of $17.99 each—seemingly a good deal in light of the $30 “original” price on the tag. But with a little research, the shopper discovered that the blouses in question were never priced for more than $17.99 during the three months prior to her purchase.

“Price comparisons are not illegal, but it is deceptive if there is no basis for the original price,” said Matthew Zevin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, who could number in the hundreds of thousands.

This isn’t the first time a retailer has gotten sued for allegedly having too many sales and promotions—or rather, for never actually selling items at non-discounted prices. In 2012, Jos. A. Bank, the men’s apparel retailer known for seemingly insane “Buy 1, Get 7 Free” promotions, was hit with a class-action lawsuit in New Jersey for allegedly using “misleading, inaccurate and deceptive marketing” to create “a false sense of urgency” among shoppers. Essentially, the retailer was accused of partaking in the same tactic that’s gotten J.C. Penney sued: Showing items with list or “original” prices that are never (or almost never) charged.

The suit against Jos. A. Bank was dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to quantify “the difference between what the regular price actually was and what the discount price should have been,” according to the New Jersey federal judge hearing the case. This doesn’t prove that Jos. A. Bank didn’t engage in the practice; it just means that the plaintiffs could not prove how much of an “ascertainable loss” they suffered as a result of the retailer’s pricing strategies.

In any event, last month Jos. A. Bank pledged it would be moving away from a “hyper aggressive promotional strategy” because it has hurt the brand—and sales and profits by extension. The announcement took place roughly a year after Jos. A. Bank was purchased for $1.8 billion by rival Men’s Wearhouse.

Let’s hope that regardless of the results of any lawsuits, stores get the message that the common practice of listing items at inflated, meaningless original prices is bad for business.

MONEY Advertising

Jon Hamm Just Predicted Don Draper’s Future After the Mad Men Finale

Film Independent At LACMA Special Screening Of "Mad Men"
Amanda Edwards—WireImage Actor Jon Hamm on May 17, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

The actor offers some clarity on the ambiguous series finale ending.

After AMC’s hit show Mad Men took its final bow on Sunday, fans took to the Internet to debate the meaning of its ambiguous ending (caution: spoilers ahead).

The final scene shows ad man Don Draper smiling blissfully at a spiritual retreat in California before cutting to the iconic Coca-Cola “Hilltop” ad from 1971. Some commenters have argued that the ad signals Draper’s escape from the clutches of Madison Avenue—and his role as a “Mad Man”—just as the ad world has begun using countercultural emblems to help sell its wares. Others have taken a more cynical view: that Draper will mine the experience to create the iconic commercial.

Turns out that actor Jon Hamm, who played Draper during the series’ seven-season run, falls into the latter camp.

“The next day, he wakes up in this beautiful place, and has this serene moment of understanding, and realizes who he is. And who he is, is an advertising man,” Hamm told the New York Times. “And so, this thing comes to him. There’s a way to see it in a completely cynical way, and say, ‘Wow, that’s awful.’ But I think that for Don, it represents some kind of understanding and comfort in this incredibly unquiet, uncomfortable life that he has led.”

Whether you think that’s cynical or not, it certainly suggests that Hamm and show creator Matt Weiner took to heart the Coke ad‘s multilayered message:

“I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony! I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.”

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