MONEY Food & Drink

Best Made-Up Holiday Ever? Celebrate ‘Pie & Beer Day’ on Friday

Pie with pint glasses of beer
Tim Hill—Alamy

Because Pie, Beer & Chocolate Day would just be overkill.

Pioneer Day, held annually in Utah on July 24, is an official state holiday commemorating the day in 1847 when Mormons entered the Salt Lake Valley. There are parades, reenactment plays, festivals, and fireworks throughout Utah to celebrate, and most businesses and government offices are closed.

But because Pioneer Day is tied to a specific religion—the original pioneers being celebrated were all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fleeing oppression in the East—not everyone feels included. So sometime around a decade ago groups of (presumably non-Mormon) friends began hosting “Pie & Beer” Day parties as an alternative, to have some fun and make the most of what’s traditionally been a day off from work.

Why pie and beer? Beyond the brilliance of combining two things many people love to consume, it’s a play on words: “pie and beer” sounds a lot like “pioneer.” “Pie and Beer Day was created as a counter culture alternative for people that don’t fit into the established green jello and hand cart mold that has been around for generations,” the Utah Beer Blog explains. As for how to celebrate Pie & Beer Day, it’s as simple as this: “Gather friends and/or family – bring pie and beer – have and consume. It’s been this way for years and it’s a formula that has proven to work.”

As for what kind of pie to consume, traditional pie-pies like apple and blueberry are most often on the table, but pizza pies and meat pies are fair game as well. Root beer is just as welcome as ales, lagers, and stouts too. Pie & Beer Day, you see, is very inclusive.

While Pie & Beer festivities can take place anywhere, last year saw the first large-scale celebrations, and the 2015 edition will be even bigger. (It helps that July 24 this year is on a Friday.) Local radio station KRCL, which hosted a pie-and-beer tasting fundraiser on July 24 last year at the Beer Bar in Salt Lake City, is doing so again this Friday. A $20 “Pie Pass” provides five pieces of pie from local bakeries (craft beer samples cost extra).

The Salt Lake Tribune has rounded up a half-dozen other Salt Lake City saloons and breweries that are likewise hosting “Pie & Beer” specials on Friday, with brews and slices of pie starting at $2.50 each.

Those who celebrate Pie & Beer Day are quick to point out that the festivities aren’t meant to mock Mormonism or any religion. “We’re poking the bear a little bit, but we’re not disrespectful. It’s about kind of accepting the confines of our culture while celebrating our rebellious spirit,” Leslie Sutter, owner of Huntsville’s Shooting Star Saloon, which has held Pie & Beer Day specials for five years, told the New York Times last year.

Come to think of it, it’s pretty hard to argue against pie and beer. If you don’t love one, odds are you have quite a fondness for the other. As for the many, many among us who are enamored with both with equally high intensity, well, Friday will be quite a holiday indeed.

MONEY Customer Service

10 Funniest & Most Creative Consumer Complaints Ever

Here's how to channel rage into laughs—and results.

airplane with banner flying behind it that reads "can you hear me now?"
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images(1)

When smacked in the face with inept, indifferent, or just plain bad customer service, some consumers dial up the company to complain and demand proper treatment, while others shoot off angry emails. Still others use their outrage and sense of injustice to get their creative juices flowing. They elevate their complaints to something approaching art in order to simultaneously embarrass the company or organization that did them wrong and shame customer service into rectifying the situation.

Music videos, epic poetry, publicly tattling on the CEO’s mom—these are some of the extraordinary, hilarious lengths consumers have gone to while seeking justice for poor treatment. The rest of us can’t help but chuckle and cheer them along.

  • Take Out a Full-Page Ad

    parking ticket under windshield wiper
    Christian Delbert—Shutterstock

    Eugene Mirman, a comedian and the voice of one of the characters on the Fox show “Bob’s Burgers,” does not take kindly to what he sees as unwarranted parking tickets—even if the fine is a measly $15. Instead of simply paying the fine to the city of Portsmouth, N.H., and going about his life, Mirman paid for a full-page ad in a local publication protesting the “horse$&it charge,” which he received because of an obscure (and pretty darn absurd) law prohibiting cars from backing into parking spots. The amusing screed was recently posted at Reddit with the headline “Best Full Page Ad Ever.” It should be noted that Mirman is well experienced with funny complaints; he previously incorporated the viral rant he wrote to Time Warner Cable into his comedy act.

  • Call the CEO’s Mom

    Comcast CEO Brian Roberts
    Rick Wilking—Reuters/Newscom Comcast CEO Brian Roberts

    Comcast’s customer service is famously cold and inept—the latest example being call-in center employees who refused to give promised senior discounts on cable because they didn’t know they existed. (This FunnyorDie provides a laugh for anyone who has ever had the thought Comcast that doesn’t care about them.) About the time that Comcast was in trouble because “customer service” agents were calling subscribers names like “A**hole” in print, a Philadelphia Daily News columnist decided to call the mother of CEO Brian Roberts and tattle on the horrible things his company was doing. The net result was that one would-be subscriber, who had previously been frustrated by 14 screwed-up Comcast appointments, wound up surrounded by Comcast trucks in a matter of hours. If only every Comcast customer had the phone number of executives’ moms on speed dial!

  • Make a Music Video

    United Airways airplane on tarmac
    George Rose—Getty Images

    “United Breaks Guitars” is probably the most viral and creative complaint of all time, viewed more than 15 million times on YouTube. The song and accompanying video were created by musician Dave Carroll in 2009 after (of course) the guitar he checked as luggage on a United Airlines flight was broken. In the video, Carroll sings of the horror he felt watching airport employees toss around musical instruments on the tarmac, as well as the way United workers “showed complete indifference towards me.” He even managed to turn the experience into a book, subtitled The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media.

  • Publish E-mail Addresses of Company Executives

    Best Buy sign
    Mark Lennihan—AP

    After being stymied in his attempts to get his rewards account working properly, one Best Buy customer decided to go up the food chain to get some results. He found the email addresses and, in some cases, phone numbers of several Best Buy executives. In addition to using them to get some satisfaction for himself, he sent the contact list to the consumer advocacy site Consumerist, which published it in full.

  • Create a Website for Visual Complaining

    Southwest Airlines luggage handlers tossing bags
    JB Reed—Bloomberg News/Getty Images

    To literally illustrate his exasperation after his new suitcase was damaged on a flight, B.J. Schone not only wrote a complaint to Southwest Airlines, he created the website DearSWA.com. At the site, Schone rehashes his experience, only instead of simply using words, the tale is told by interlacing before-and-after photos of the bag in question with images of the Grinch and the best customer service standoff in movie history, Steve Martin at the rental car counter in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Altogether, it makes for a compelling—and quite funny—bit of visual storytelling.

  • Make a Music Video #2

    Bank of America
    Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    To embarrass Bank of America, which was taking extraordinarily long to get their mortgage loan paperwork in order, Ken and Meredith Williams made a funny music video called “Close This Loan!” It’s set to the tune of a Flight of the Conchords song, with lyrics like “Why can’t a house go fast / When a buyer’s got cash / Preapproval and two cats.”

  • Create a Website for Video Evidence

    FedEx Ground deliverymen throwing a box onto a stack
    Mark Lennihan—AP

    This resource for consumer complaints is more shocking than ha-ha funny. The website DontThrowMyPackage.com consists mostly of surveillance videos showing UPS, FedEx, and USPS workers tossing and damaging the packages they’re delivering. It was inspired by the outrage-inducing viral video “FedEx Guy Throwing My Computer Monitor.”

  • Tweet Wittily (Helps if You’re Famous)

    Patrick Stewart in Star Trek and Time Warner Cable exterior
    Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection (left)—Andrew Burton/Getty Images (right)

    Ordinary consumers can and do Tweet when they have a beef with a company. But when someone famous Tweets about a bad experience with a brand, and when they do so in an acerbic way, the message (and damage) can spread incredibly quickly. Such was the case when Sir Patrick Stewart (a.k.a. Professor X from the X-Men films) spent 36 frustrating hours trying—and failing—to get Time Warner Cable service set up at his home in Brooklyn. “36hrs later I’ve lost the will to live,” Stewart wrote, in appropriately dramatic fashion. Similarly, actor-writer-director Kevin Smith received tons of attention while Tweeting about his embarrassing experience being asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight because he was too fat. After Smith got to his destination, he joked on Twitter, “Don’t worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.”

  • Write a Poem

    Comcast van
    iStock

    There’s bad customer service, and then there’s service so bad that it moves customers to write poetry—because regular prose just can’t do the situation justice. Such was apparently the case when Joel Walden conceived the 20-stanza “Ode to Comcast (Composed While Waiting for the Cable Guy),” with lines such as “Enraged, I call, complain, and whine, / As manly as I’m able. / But no pleas, demands, nor whimpering / Would avail me any cable.”

  • Pay to Promote Complaints on Social Media

    British Airways luggage tag
    Chris Pancewicz—Alamy

    Most complaints surface on Twitter or Facebook and are quickly lost in obscurity. A Chicago-based business owner named Hasan Syed wanted his complaint—about British Airways losing his father’s luggage—to have more impact and be more memorable. He achieved his goal by spending more than $1,000 to promote his messages on Twitter. The messages themselves weren’t particularly funny (“Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.”), but the fact that he went to such extraordinary lengths to vent is pretty darn hilarious.

TIME twitter

Here’s How Twitter Plans to Capture Video Ad Dollars

Twitter Goes Public On The New York Stock Exchange
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Feature comes days after Facebook ramped up its own video offerings

Twitter is making it easier for apps to advertise on Twitter through promoted videos.

The move, announced Wednesday, comes after Facebook started another option for those advertising through video: the ability to pay only after a video has played for at least 10 seconds.

Richard Alfonsi, Twitter’s VP of global business development and platforms, called the new feature “an immersive experience to have video directly in the tweet. It creates great performance and lets marketers convey a lot more about what the app does.”

The micro-blogging service said it will also allow advertisers to pay in different ways, too, called “optimized action bidding.”

“This new bidding type allows app install advertisers to optimize their bids according to install, while still paying by app click—offering another way to lower cost-per-installs and yield the highest possible ROI,” the company said in a statement.

Lyft, a ride-sharing service that rivals Uber, recently boasted about Twitter’s advertising capabilities: “Twitter has become our go-to channel for social media marketing,” the company said. “We’ve seen tremendous results with up to three times better performance than other social media channels.”

Twitter unveiled auto-play videos recently and started selling app-install ads last year, Adweek reported.

MONEY marketing

10 ‘Old Person’ Brands Getting Millennial Makeovers

Awkward. Like a mom wearing her teenage daughter's clothes.

As a consumer brand’s core customer base gets older, it’s inevitable that the brand itself will start to feel old as well. Some brands embrace the shift and smoothly transition from trendy mass darling to beloved old-timey classic. More often, though, brands have a difficult time accepting that their years in the sun have faded, and that hipper, trendier labels are taking over.

What’s particularly tricky about the attempts of old-fashioned brands to remain relevant and in-demand today is that millennials are notoriously difficult to reach with traditional marketing. Nonetheless, from NASCAR to Maxwell House Coffee and beyond, we’re seeing all manner of brands launching makeovers and tweaking old products to woo millennials, with varying degrees of success—and awkwardness.

  • Maxwell House

    Maxwell House Iced Coffee concentrates
    courtesy Maxwell House

    As AdAge noted, Maxwell House coffee is 122 years old, and it’s “one of the retiree set’s favorite brands.” Instead of remaining focused on its core gray-haired customers, Kraft-owned Maxwell House has been trying to reach millennials, who love coffee but rarely brew their own at home and more rarely still drink it black. Kraft’s proposed concept to woo the flavored-coffee-loving youngsters is Maxwell House Ice Coffee Concentrates. They’re squeeze bottles that are poured over ice for instant iced coffee, in Caramel, Vanilla, and other flavors. “Think of it as Mio with caffeine,” the Chicago Business Journal explained.

  • Residence Inn

    Smores on the firepit at Marriott Residence Inn
    courtesy Marriott Residence Inn Smores on the firepit at Marriott Residence Inn

    The Marriott-owned extended-stay hotel is turning 40 in 2015, and like many turning the big 4-0 before it, the brand isn’t ready to embrace old fogey status. Instead, the chain is trying to inject some hipster cred with a new program called Residence Inn Mix, with guests encouraged to mix and mingle other business travelers on various “themed nights.”

    Local food trucks show up every other Wednesday, for instance, and there are hangouts around fire pits. A few Residence Inn locations are also testing a pilot program involving an augmented reality technology called Blippar, in which guests are presented special “beverage coasters that allow them to unlock unique interactive experiences including multi-player trivia games, customizable selfies and premium Anheuser-Busch content including suggested food and beer pairings.” Food trucks, tech rewards, selfies: What more could a millennial want?

  • NASCAR

    150630_EM_MillennialBrands_Nascar
    Phelan M. Ebenhack—AP Live music and DJs have become staples at NASCAR events.

    Why are DJs, go karts, and foam parties turning up at NASCAR races? The added side attractions are all about trying to turn the children of prototypical NASCAR Dads into NASCAR Kids. For instance, ticketholders for car races this summer at the Michigan International Speedway are simultaneously granted admission to Keloorah, a two-day festival that sounds a lot like a rave, with “live concerts, deejays, video games, tailgate games, foam parties and paint parties.”

    There are also “dedicated spaces for hanging out with your friends even into the wee hours of 3 a.m.,” the Detroit Free Press reported. The overarching idea is that while millennials might not turn up for a plain old car racing event, they’ll be intrigued with a three-day festival that includes electronic dance music and late-night partying.

  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House

    Ruth's Chris Steak House
    Helen Sessions—Alamy

    The experience at this upscale steakhouse chain—butter-topped steak served in quiet, low-lit rooms draped in dark woods—is classic. But another way of saying “classic” is old-fashioned, and perhaps out of touch with what young people want today. To boost its sway among millennials and younger diners, Ruth’s Chris is undergoing a broad “Ruth’s 2.0″ renovation at as many as 15 locations this year, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Some of the dark polished wood will disappear, to be replaced with hipper (and lighter) stone. Bigger bars and more open space will be added on patios too, because, you know the youngsters like to drink and socialize.

    To avoid alienating the established clientele accustomed to the way things have always been at Ruth’s Chris, the changes will be subtle. And they’re not daring to get rid of the butter on the steaks.

  • Hyatt

    Hyatt Centric, South Beach, Miami, Florida
    Hyatt Hyatt Centric, South Beach, Miami, Florida

    Following the trend of other big travel companies introducing “hotel for millennials” concepts, Hyatt recently rolled out Hyatt Centric. The new hotel brand, with locations only in Chicago and Miami’s South Beach thus far but many more on the way, is targeted at younger customers who might otherwise use Airbnb because of a preference for city-center locations and a residential feel. Among other millennial-friendly amenities, Hyatt Centric guests always enjoy free wi-fi and are allowed to bring their pets, and the on-site lounge features “local flavors, artisanal cocktails and an occasional riff on an acoustic guitar.”

  • Chevrolet

    2016 Chevrolet Sonic RS Sedan
    Mueller/Chevrolet 2016 Chevrolet Sonic RS Sedan

    General Motors’ Oldsmobile brand was phased out more than a decade ago. But GM, and the entire auto industry for that matter, has been understandably concerned that millennials think car ownership in general is old-fashioned and out of date. To win over the millennial generation, which now accounts for one-quarter of new car sales, GM’s Chevy brand has launched huge social media campaigns not only on Twitter and Facebook, but Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat, and other “emerging” platforms. Specifically, Chevy is using social media to promote models like the Spark, Sonic, Trax, and Cruze, which are smaller, more affordable, and (presumably) more appropriate for millennials than other kinds of cars.

  • Good Humor

    Unveiling of The Good Humor Joy Squad and launch of the Good Humor Welcome to Joyhood campaign,Thursday, June 25, 2015, in New York.
    Diane Bondareff—Invision for Good Humor

    On the one hand, Good Humor is using nostalgia in the form of vintage ice cream trucks to give ice cream sales a boost this summer. While that should play well with “vintage” old-timers who remember when an ice pop cost a nickel, the Unilever-owned brand is simultaneously going for younger generations with a series of brightly-colored tricked-out ice cream trucks that blare Taylor Swift and Beyonce tunes instead of the ice cream jingles of yore. Perhaps inevitably, customers will be able to place orders with iPads at the new trucks too.

  • KFC

    Colonel Sanders
    KFC KFC's Colonel Sanders

    You’ve probably noticed that Colonel Sanders has made a comeback. While the return of KFC’s white-haired founder-mascot may not seem to have anything to do with millennials, the goofball humor of the new Colonel, now played by SNL veteran Darrell Hammond, certainly seems aimed at a new generation of consumers who may largely ignore KFC’s “finger lickin’ good” food. What’s more, the revamped Colonel is part of KFC’s larger hipster makeover that includes a screwball online video game in which players make Colonel Sanders punch people in the face and bounce babies off of trampolines.

  • Goodwill

    Goodwill of Orange County
    Michelle Carrillo—Goodwill of Orange County Goodwill of Orange County

    The rise of hipper, or at least more organized thrift store chains like Savers and consignment shops has pushed stalwart thrift brands of old such as Goodwill to take a look in the mirror and try to appeal to a broader—and younger—base of consumers. A spokesman for a group of Goodwill locations in western New York recently explained that stores were undergoing upgrades such as improved lighting and more user-friendly layouts in order to attract “young families, college kids looking at getting really good branded products at a good price, do-it-yourselfers, just getting new shoppers to give us a shot.” In some cases, the buildings housing Goodwill stores have been upgraded, or are brand new construction rather than serving as the replacement when a fading retailer like Barnes & Noble or Toys R Us fails. Improvements at Goodwill stores seem to be the inspiration for upgrades to Salvation Army stores as well.

  • Pizza Hut

    150630_EM_MillennialBrands_PizzaHut
    courtesy Pizza Hut Pizza Hut Hot Dog Bites pizza

    If any group is intrigued with tasting fast food monstrosities like Pizza Hut’s new hot dog pizza, it’s millennials. They’ve come of age as full-fledged foodies who welcome spice and quickly tire of the same-old, same-old. In addition to wacky creations like the hot dog pizza, Pizza Hut has been shooting for a youth surge with a radical new menu featuring a wide spectrum of crust, sauce, and “drizzle” dipping options, as well as gimmicks like this funky pizza box that turns into a film projector.

MONEY Food & Drink

Why Paying More for Imported Beers Is a Big Waste of Money

150625_EM_ImportBeer
Rene van den Berg—Alamy

Many "imports" aren't imported from anywhere.

A recently settled lawsuit means that customers who have purchased Beck’s beer in recent years may be entitled to refunds—up to $50 for purchases made since 2011. Customers who don’t have receipts can receive up to $12; to get a refund higher than that, receipts are necessary.

The settlement should serve as yet another alert to beer drinkers that “imports” such as Beck’s, Kirin, Bass Ale, and Foster’s—which are perceived to originate in Germany, Japan, England, and Australia, respectively—are actually brewed right here in the U.S. of A.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, the settlement arose from a class-action suit filed in Florida against beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, the owner of the Beck’s brand, over claims that consumers were deceived into thinking that the Beck’s beer they were buying was imported from Germany. Beck’s packaging includes phrases like “Germany Quality” and “Originated in Bremen, Germany.” In fact, the Beck’s sold in the U.S. has been brewed in Missouri for years.

The settlement comes a few months after a similar agreement regarding Kirin, another Anheuser-Busch product that’s seemingly imported but is also made in the U.S. In a settlement reached in January, the beer company agreed to pay up to $50 per household purchasing the faux Japanese brew, though at the same time AB InBev released a statement maintaining, “We believe our labeling, packaging and marketing of Kirin Ichiban and Kirin Light have always been truthful.”

The larger truth, however, is that over the past decade or so imports—faux or genuine—have rapidly lost their status as the best brews money can buy. How this happened is that firstly, as pointed out above, many popular “imports” stopped being imported and began being brewed in the U.S. Many beer enthusiasts insist that the taste of the Bass Pale Ale brewed in Baldwinsville, N.Y., for instance, is vastly inferior to the truly English-made product of old.

Secondly, a little thing called craft brewing completely changed the beer scene in America and beyond. Craft beer production in the U.S. was up 42% last year, and craft beer sales surpassed 10% of the overall beer market in 2014 for the first time ever. Craft brews accounted for only 5% of sales as recently as 2010.

What’s more, according to the Brewers Association, which represents craft beer interests, America exported $100 million worth of craft beer in 2014, an increase of 36% year over year. Regions renowned for great beer traditions, including Germany and much of western Europe, have been welcoming American craft beers with open arms. And the reason this is so is that smaller labels have consistently delivered fresher and more interesting flavors than any macro brew, and that America’s robust and creative craft brewing scene is viewed as the envy of the world.

Considering how beer-loving nations around the globe are eager to import American craft beer because of its superior taste and quality, why would American beer enthusiasts pay extra for beer that seems to be imported from somewhere else? Especially when in fact this beer is brewed in the same facilities that make the macro labels they disdain? Increasingly, the standard menu at bars and restaurants, in which imports are separated by higher prices (and presumably, higher quality) from American brews, seems out of touch with the times.

The point American beer lovers should take to heart is that there are many compelling reasons to drink local. Above all, if you’re going to pay a premium for beer, be sure that it’s based on the product’s taste, not because of some outdated idea about which countries have the best beer. This goes doubly in terms of supposedly upscale and high-quality “imports” that aren’t imported at all.

MONEY Advertising

Shark TV Fest Hilariously Admits It’s a Blatant Shark Week Rip-Off

On “Ambush Alley,” a group of Black Tip Sharks swim just beneath the water's surface, South Africa.
Aquavision TV Productions—National Geographic Channels On the Nat Geo Wild show “Ambush Alley,” a group of Black Tip Sharks swim just beneath the water's surface, South Africa.

"It's the same friggin' sharks anyway."

The Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” has become a colossal event, not only in terms of being a ratings and marketing bonanza, but also in its role as the inspiration for a larger frenzy, so to speak, of shark-related merchandise, attractions, and entertainment.

Naturally, Discover Channel’s cable TV competitors have tried to get in on the sharktastic action with shark-related programming of their own. But no “Shark Week” imitator has done it quite as blatantly, or hilariously, as the Nat Geo Wild channel’s event dubbed “SharkFest,” which just so happens to kick off on Sunday, July 5, the same day as “Shark Week” begins.

AdWeek called attention to the new “SharkFest” promo, which features comedian Rory Scovel owning up to the way Nat Geo Wild is overtly trying to muddy the waters and steal “Shark Week’s” thunder. “We want you to confuse the two. And you will. And we don’t care—because it gets us ratings,” Scovel says. “We’re going to continue to do it” in the hopes that you “accidentally watch us.”

Most importantly, Scovel points out, viewers shouldn’t care whether they’re watching the sharks chomping seals and menacingly bumping up against shark cages on the Discovery Channel or Nat Geo Wild. “It’s the same friggin’ sharks anyways,” he says. “Sharks cannot sign an exclusive contract with a network … we’re pretty certain on that.”

Scovel then tosses out a couple awesomely lazy and honest slogans:

“SharkFest: Yeah, maybe it’s not our idea. Who cares? Just watch it.”

“SharkFest: It’s on the same time as the other thing. On Nat Geo Wild.”

Watch the whole promo here:

The ad isn’t just funny, though. It’s quite possibly brilliant. “The idea came up of being more transparent about viewer confusion during Shark Week. We thought it would be funny to own that and be playful with it,” Tyler Korba, Nat Geo Wild’s creative director for on-air marketing, explained at the PromaxBDA Brief blog. “If you can’t have fun doing TV, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Viewers are going to know the channel is ripping off “Shark Week,” so the thinking is it’s best to get that out of the way—and even poke fun at themselves. “It’s a little bit of aikido,” said Korba. “Once you’ve called it what it is, once you’ve owned it, you’ve turned a potentially awkward thing into a strength.”

TIME facebook

How Facebook is Trying To Make Better Mobile Ads

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone Facebook
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Watch your back, TV

Facebook has mobile mostly figured out. At the beginning of the year, the category generated nearly three-quarters of the social networking company’s advertising revenue. But Zuckerberg’s execs are betting there’s still plenty of room for growth.

Facebook is currently developing new ad formats for mobile devices that “it hopes will deliver more immersive experiences for customers and greater value for advertisers,” according to the Wall Street Journal. For example, a prototype of the new offering allows marketers “to create fully-branded, interactive destinations within the Facebook environment, featuring full-screen video, product information and other content.”

That’s beneficial to advertisers because many mobile ad formats don’t work well on smaller devices, especially those that are essentially sized-down version of their desktop equivalents.

“We’re trying to give marketers a canvas that’s more engaging,” Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox told the Journal. “We’re working on creating things that seem weird at first, and then become invisible.”

The new ads may help Facebook keep users within its network, WSJ reporter Jack Marshall points out. The company could host content from marketers just as Facebook’s Instant Article program hosts content from media publishers, he writes.

On Tuesday, Cox will present the new ad format at the Cannes Lions ad festival in France. The company plans to work alongside advertisers, soliciting their input in order to perfect its product before taking it public. If successful, the strategy could help Facebook lure more advertising money away from TV and other venues.

MONEY Tech

Our National Robocalling Nightmare May Soon Be Over

robot using smartphone
iStock

Take that, spammers and robocallers!

In the phrase “unwanted robocall,” the word unwanted probably isn’t necessary. Is there any automated sales call that is actually wanted? Ever?

Earlier this year, 200,000 people signed a petition asking telecom companies to give customers the means to block commercial robocalls. They probably could have gotten tens of millions of such signatures with a little more time and outreach.

In any event, on Thursday, hallelujah, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a package that will make it much easier to put a stop to the extremely annoying and unwanted robocalls. The commission’s decision “affirmed consumers’ rights to control the calls they receive,” while also clarifying that it was fully legal for telephone companies to offer robocall-blocking technology to customers.

“Complaints related to unwanted calls are the largest category of complaints received by the Commission, numbering more than 215,000 in 2014,” an FCC statement explained. (The Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, reportedly received an astounding 3 million complaints about robocalls in 2014.) The new rules are intended to address consumer concerns by “closing loopholes and strengthening consumer protections already on the books,” according to the FCC.

Despite heavy lobbying from multiple industries on the pro-robocall and pro-spam side, the FCC ruled to uphold and clarify the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, while also bolstering the protections offered by the Do Not Call Registry. Specifically, the package affirmed:

• Phone service providers can offer robocall-blocking technology to customers.

• Consumers can decide to opt out of robocalls at any time.

• The same protections and opt-out rights regarding telemarketing messages apply to text messages as well as calls to wireless and landline phones.

A group of consumer advocates jointly applauded the measure as soon as it was announced. “We applaud the FCC for holding the line to keep the plague of unwanted robocalls from becoming even worse,” said Susan Grant, director of Consumer Protection and Privacy at Consumer Federation of America. “Since the FCC has now clarified that telephone companies can block these types of calls, we expect the companies to act quickly to implement blocking options for their customers.”

On the other hand, speaking on behalf of the business community, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that the FCC’s move could lead to more class-action lawsuits against companies, which would “likely lead to increased costs for consumers.”

Or perhaps businesses could simply stop robocalling and avoid lawsuits entirely.

MONEY

8 Epic Business Failures with Donald Trump’s Name on Them

Donald Trump
Ian MacNicol—Getty Images Donald Trump

If the Trump presidential campaign fails, it won't be the Donald's first misfire.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump threw his name into the ring as an official candidate for president in 2016. “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors,” Trump explained of his candidacy, before adding a heaping dose of trademark bluster: “I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

As for why he’s running, Trump pointed to his business sense and declared, “We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again.”

Yet time and again over the years, the Trump brand has been featured in many embarrassing high-profile flops in the business world. Here are some of the misfires attached to the “Trump” name.

Trump Shuttle
In 1989 the Eastern Air Shuttle was reborn as the Trump Shuttle, complete with a large “T” on the tails of the planes and—no joke—”gold lavatory fixtures.” The goal was to create a top-notch luxury flight service—they even paired with a company that rented laptops, which was cutting edge at the time—but the operation was hemorrhaging cash within weeks and was completely out of business by 1992.

Trump: The Game
The original catchphrase for the Monopoly-like Trump board game introduced in 1989 was the Trumpism “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!” Sales were underwhelming, to put it mildly. But after Trump became a cultural phenomenon in the reality TV show “The Apprentice,” the game was back on the market featuring a new expression: “You’re fired!”

Trump Magazine
“The Trump Brand evokes elegance and TRUMP Magazine will reflect the passions of its affluent readership by tapping into a rich cultural tapestry,” explained a 2007 press release introducing Trump Magazine. A year and a half later, the quarterly periodical, billed as a “highly anticipated ‘must read’ among VIPs and influencers,” had ceased publication.

GoTrump.com
Billed as his “biggest venture to date in the $80 billion online travel industry,” Donald Trump introduced this travel search engine powered by Travelocity in 2006. The site was supposed to host “Trump Picks” and “Trump Deals,” and it was accompanied by the introduction of The Donald’s “first-ever email address” (MrTrump@GoTrump.com) which he would be using to “offer travel tips and advice.” The site was shut down a year later.

Trump Casinos
The Atlantic City casino Trump Plaza, which was built in the 1980s at a cost of $210 million, was sold off at the “fire sale price” of $20 million in 2013, not long before several casinos shut down in the fading gambling destination. Trump insists that he cashed out the vast majority of his interests in the Trump Plaza and nearby Trump Taj Mahal long before Atlantic City property values tanked, but earlier this year he reached an agreement to keep his name on them.

Trump Mortgage
“Donald Trump is putting the suit and tie back in the mortgage business,” a 2006 press release explained of his brand new venture, Trump Mortgage. Whatever that means. Less than two years later, the suit and tie were back in the closet, or perhaps up for sale at the consignment store, so to speak, as Trump Mortgage closed up shop. Trump speedily downplayed the venture as well, saying, “The mortgage business is not a business I particularly liked or wanted to be part of in a very big way.”

Trump Steaks
AdAge described Trump Steaks, featured on the June 2007 cover of the Sharper Image catalogue, as like “a ‘Saturday Night Live’ spoof, but it’s not.”

Trump Vodka
Donald Trump made no secret of the fact that he doesn’t drink. Nonetheless, a decade ago he rolled out Trump Vodka and promised it would be “a major player in the vodka arena” because “it’s a superb product and it’s beautifully packaged,” and “there’s nobody who markets better in the luxury category than Donald Trump.” This is one “major player” that disappeared from the marketplace several years ago.

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