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Branded for Life

What it's like for an actor to become a TV commercial megastar—forever associated with a brand, for better and worse:

"On the day of the audition, roughly 30 actors showed up. When it was Olcott’s turn, he flashed his big, ecstatic smile. The director loved it, and Olcott got the job. In February, on a bare-bones budget of roughly $100,000, a first commercial was shot touting the herbal product Enzyte. It boiled down to 30 seconds of campy innuendo. Olcott was shown breezing through life flashing his blissed-out smile at breakfast, at work, and while waving happily to his neighbor, a guy holding a sagging hose. 'This is Bob,' went the voice-over. 'Bob is doing well. Very well indeed. That’s because not long ago, with just a quick phone call, Bob realized that he could have something better in his life. And what did he get? Why, a big boost of confidence, a little more self-esteem, and a very happy Mrs. at home.' Toward the end of the commercial, viewers were given a telephone number for Enzyte.

"A couple months later, Olcott got a phone call from the advertising team in Los Angeles. The commercial was a huge hit in the U.S. The phones at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, the Cincinnati-based maker of Enzyte, were ringing like crazy. They wanted more ads, more Bob, more smiles. Spear rushed back to Vancouver. By the time they stopped shooting in 2005, Olcott had starred as Smiling Bob in 18 different Enzyte commercials. Ultimately, Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals spent more than $125 million on airtime, the company’s founder would later tell GQ. Smiling Bob was famous."
PUBLISHED: Sept. 27, 2012
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3957 words)

BuzzFeed, the Ad Model for the Facebook Era?

Inside the social media factory created by former Huffington Post cofounder Jonah Peretti—how they've cracked viral content, invested in original content, and made money:

"At around 5 p.m., Stopera published '48 Pictures That Perfectly Capture the ’90s' on BuzzFeed. 'These pictures are all that and a bag of chips!' he wrote at the top of the list. A BuzzFeed visitor with an appetite for ’90s nostalgia could scroll down, gawk at the 48 retro images, read the deadpan captions, recall Bob Saget, Tipper Gore, and Scottie Pippen, laugh at the crazy fashion, and resurface to the present day in a matter of minutes. It racked up 1.2 million page views."
PUBLISHED: March 22, 2012
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3208 words)

The King of All Vegas Real Estate Scams

An FBI spokesperson says that for the time being the agency is not commenting on the case. But already the investigation has provided a window into yet another layer of corruption that took place amid the national housing boom and its subsequent hangover—a period that saw a surge in real estate malfeasance of every imaginable variety, including false loan applications, predatory lending schemes, illegal property flipping, equity skimming, and “air loans” (loans for property that doesn’t exist). According to FBI data, the number of suspicious activity reports related to real estate fraud filed by financial institutions jumped to 67,190 in 2009 from 6,936 in 2003.

To this history, Las Vegas has managed to add another florid chapter. So far, prosecutors have reached plea agreements with 10 co-conspirators. Many more are expected to appear in front of judges in the coming months. Says Murray: “We’re all going to be sitting in the front row, watching.”
PUBLISHED: Dec. 8, 2011
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4639 words)

The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace

In February 2009, with the threat of Facebook's growing popularity looming over their company, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, the co-founders of Myspace, appeared on The Charlie Rose Show. DeWolfe explained that Myspace was more than a social network; it was a portal where people discovered new friends and music and movies—it was practically where young people lived. "We have the largest music catalog in the world," DeWolfe said. Anderson predicted that by 2015, Myspace would have up to 400 million users. DeWolfe said the site's worth was "in the billions." Rose mentioned how Murdoch had bought Myspace's parent company, Intermix, for $580 million. "Are you happy you made the deal?" asked Rose. "Um …," said DeWolfe.
PUBLISHED: June 22, 2011
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4119 words)

Byron Reese & Demand Media's Planet of the Algorithms

Every week, Reese would come up with an idea for something new to peddle. They would draft a business plan, launch a website, and measure consumers' subsequent interest in a product. Efforts to sell coins and watches failed. At one point, Reese tried manufacturing family portraiture using inexpensive subcontractor artists in places such as Russia. The concept wasn't easy to expand. "A lot of people have ideas," says Handsman. "Byron has the discipline to actually measure them. He was willing to come up with a ridiculous number of ideas, but he was also willing to abandon them if they were proven not to work."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 28, 2011
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3606 words)

Don Draper's Revenge

Everyone is waiting for Omnicom, Interpublic, WPP, and Publicis to fade away. But these lumbering advertising behemoths have advantages over smaller, cutting-edge firms. "All these little companies with fun names," says David Lubars, "we've kicked their butts." Lubars is chairman and chief creative officer of Omnicom's BBDO North America, an 82-year-old Madison Avenue agency with more than 17,000 employees. "Americans like a story of the big guys getting taken down. But that doesn't mean that's what is actually happening."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 26, 2010
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3310 words)

Co West, O'Brien!

On June 1, Mr. O’Brien will debut as the new host of NBC’s Tonight Show. And since February, the majority of his New York staff has relocated to Los Angeles, where NBC is currently putting the finishing touches on a new Tonight Show theater. It’s housed in Stage One of Universal Studios, the original home of The Jack Benny Show and the home, for a time, of Knight Rider.
PUBLISHED: May 19, 2009
LENGTH: 5 minutes (1429 words)