Peacock signs documentary deals with accused Gilgo Beach murderer’s family, reports say

November 29, 2023

Streaming service Peacock is paying the family of a Manhattan architect accused of killing three women whose remains were found along Gilgo Beach on Long Island to participate in a documentary series about his trial, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, November 28.

According to a later report by Forbes—and follow-up coverage by a slew of publications—the move drew ire from victims’ families as the decades-long mystery was immediately thrust back into the spotlight.

Asa Ellerup—who filed for divorce from longtime husband, alleged Gilgo Beach killer Rex Heuermann, days after he was arrested in July—was recently seen in court with a Peacock film crew, the Times reported, although the streamer has yet to comment on the planned production.

The couple’s two adult children also have reportedly sold their life rights, according to Deadline, and will receive payments for their participation alongside Heuermann’s attorneys.

Ellerup’s lawyer, Robert Macedonio, told the Times that the production will be partially developed by G-Unit, 50 Cent’s production company.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, whose office is prosecuting Heuermann’s case, told the Times that the documentary is “going to affect (Ellerup’s) credibility,” and Rodney Harrison, Suffolk County’s outgoing police commissioner, called it “a smack at the family members who lost a loved one.”

Representatives for NBC and G-Unit did not immediately respond to Forbes’ request for comment Tuesday.

“Disappointed, disgusted, flabbergasted, frustrated are a few words that come to mind right now,” Sherre Gilbert, sister of murder victim Shannan Gilbert, wrote in a post on X about the upcoming documentary. “The way that the media will buy stories to further re-victimize, re-traumatize, and exploit the families & victims of serial killers is evil!”

Research contact: @Forbes

Snickers maker Mars to buy UK chocolatier for $665M

November 28, 2023

Mars is paying US$665 million (€534 million) to buy Royston, England-based Hotel Chocolat, as the U.S.-based Snickers and M&M’s manufacturer expands its presence in the U.K. and increases its exposure to premium confections. Mars has operated in the U.K. since 1932, reports Food Dive.

Andrew Clarke, global president of Mars Snacking, said his firm has “long admired” Hotel Chocolat, which is known for its lower sugar and higher cocoa content. Clarke called Hotel Chocolat a “differentiated brand.”

While Mars is bes- known for its mainstream confections, the acquisition of Hotel Chocolat will give the New Jersey-based company a premium brand that it can expand in the U.K. and “potentially, in new geographies.” Mars said the purchase will add to its portfolio a brand with “distinctive capabilities in product development, luxury gifting, and immersive brand experiences.”

Even though premium offerings have been hit hard by inflation, having another brand that plays in this category could benefit Mars by complementing the lower-priced sweets synonymous with the more than century-old company.

At the same time, Mars acquires a chocolatier that has attributes that are increasingly popular with consumers, including the use of natural ingredients, a commitment to use every part of the cocoa bean, and guaranteeing its growers receive a living income in exchange for meeting sustainable and ethical labor targets.

In buying Hotel Chocolat, Mars will bring to the mix its larger global footprint, supply chain connections and relationship with retailers that immediately provide a platform to grow the nearly 20-year-old brand. Mars also will benefit from Hotel Chocolat’s physical stores and digital commerce platform.

Hotel Chocolat’s international expansion plans have run into problems before; so having Mars as its parent will be valuable, should it decide to grow into additional markets. CNBC noted that Hotel Chocolat shuttered its direct-to-consumer website sales in the United States in September 2022, months after closing its high-street stores in the country.

“We know our brand resonates with consumers overseas, but operational supply chain challenges have held us back,” Hotel Chocolat said. “By partnering with Mars, we can grow our international presence much more quickly using their skills, expertise and capabilities.”

Research contact: @FoodDive

Millennials say they need $525,000 a year to be happy. A Nobel Prize winner says they’re right.

November 27, 2023

A new survey has found that the average person needs $1.2 million in the bank to be happy. For Millennials, happiness would come from a $525,000 annual salary, reports Entrepreneur.

Money might actually be able to buy happiness—and each generation has a different idea of what that price tag would be.

On Monday, Noivember 20, Empower—a Colorado-based financial services company—released the results of a survey conducted by The Harris Poll in August that asked 2,034 Americans aged 18 and over what they think the key to financial happiness really is. Turns out, 59% of respondents think happiness can be bought, and the average person believes it would take having $1.2 million in the bank to be truly happy financially.

When it comes to annual salary, the average respondent thinks they need $284,167 each year to be happy. Here’s what each generation said they need to earn annually, as well as the net worth required, to achieve happiness:

  • Gen Z: $128,000, with a net worth of $487,711
  • Millennials: $525,000, with a net worth of $1,699,571
  • Gen X: $130,000, with a net worth of $1,213,759
  • Boomers: $124,000, with a net worth of $999,945

Men said they needed to earn $381,000 annually, while women said $183,000 would make them happy.

A 2023 study coauthored by another Nobel Prize recipient Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University found that happiness can improve with higher earnings of up to $500,000 a year, supporting the Millennial survey respondents’ predictions.

“In the simplest terms, this suggests that for most people larger incomes are associated with greater happiness,” Matthew Killingsworth, a senior fellow at Penn’s Wharton School and coauthor of the studysaid. “The exception is people who are financially well-off, but unhappy. For instance, if you’re rich and miserable, more money won’t help. For everyone else, more money was associated with higher happiness to somewhat varying degrees.”

That differs from a 2010 study from Nobel Prize recipient Angus Deaton, also of Princeton, found money could only boost happiness up to $75,000 in annual earnings, and after that point, extra money had little impact.

Still, there’s more to it than just the annual salary. According to the survey, inflation, high interest rates, and student loans are weighing on Americans’ financial security, and having the comfort to spend money on everyday items can boost the feeling of financial happiness. For example, 62% of Millennials said they would be willing to pay $7 for a daily coffee “because of the joy it brings.”

The latest economic data could make Americans’ financial happiness goals more achievable. Inflation is continuing to come down as the United States recovers from the pandemic—the Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation, increased 3.2% year-over-year in October—a decrease from the 3.7% reading a month prior.

The Federal Reserve also has pressed pause on its interest rate hikes, given the promising inflation data, and the central bank no longer forecasts a recession as the year comes to a close.

The latest Survey of Consumer Finances from the Federal Reserve, found some hope for Millennials when it comes to net worth. Net worth for the typical family surged 37% from 2019 through 2022, the survey found; and the median net worth of Americans aged 35 to 44 was $135,000 in 2022, up from $105,610 in 2019.

Research contact: @Entrepreneur

Kim Kardashian’s private equity firm acquires minority stake in Truff

November 23, 2023

On Tuesday, November 20, private equity firm Skky Partners—founded by Kim Kardashian and business partner Jay Sammons—announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire a “significant minority stake” in truffle-infused hot sauce and condiment brand Truff, reports Food Dive.

This represents the first capital investment for Skky, which launched last year—aiming to make minority investments in consumer goods companies. Financial terms for the deal were not disclosed.

Truff “singlehandedly brought truffle-infused products into the mainstream food scene,” and has the potential for continued growth, Kardashian said in a statement.

The investment comes as premium hot sauce offerings—particularly with unique, trendy flavors and ingredient—grow in popularit,y along with the broader spicy foods category.

Founded in 2017, the Truff brand sells “luxury” truffle-infused hot sauce, pasta sauce, mayonnaise, oil and salt—which are available in over 20,000 stores nationwide. It saw a significant boost in popularity on social media in recent years and grew a dedicated fanbase, with its @sauce Instagram handle.

Truff also collaborated with major brands including Clorox’s Hidden Valley Ranch, with a limited-edition Truffle Ranch product in 2022.

The success of Truff follows spicy flavors gaining more prominence, particularly with younger consumers. A Datassential report earlier this year found that Milennials and Gen Z are the first generations to prefer Mexican food to Italian.

The hot sauce category is projected to be worth over $5 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7.42%, according to Fortune Business Insights.

While a select few hot sauce brands like Tabasco have enjoyed mainstream success in the past, the growth of the category continues to bring more players into the fold, touting distinctive flavors and occasions.

Kraft Heinz debuted a line of premium sauces and spreads in 2022 under the Heinz 57 banner, which includes Hot Chili and Black Truffle Infused Honey items. Earlier this year, the company unveiled a line of Spicy Ketchup items, adding spice from chipotle, habanero.

Research contact: @FoodDive

This is how Americans really feel about tipping—and whom they are likely to tip the most

November 21, 2023

If you feel like you’re expected to tip more often these days, but no longer know what the guidelines are, you have plenty of company out there, reports HuffPost.

Most U.S. adults believe that the expectation to tip has increased during the last few years—yet they feel a lot of uncertainty about when to leave gratuities and how large they should be, according to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

More than 70% of the survey’s respondents said it feels like more businesses expect their workers to be tipped than was the case five years ago. But only around 33% of respondents said it was very easy to know whether to leave a gratuity in a given situation, and roughly the same share said it was very easy to know how big it should be.

Respondents also said they were far more likely to tip certain service workers than others. More than 90% said they always or often leave a tip for a restaurant server; but only 76% said the same for an app-based delivery worker; 61%, for a ride-share driver; and just 25% for a coffee shop barista.

Drew DeSilver, a Pew writer who analyzed the survey results, told HuffPost that the findings dovetail with anecdotal evidence of a tipping culture shift―sometimes dubbed tipflation, tip creep, or tipping fatigue―in which customers feel more pressure, often through point-of-sale touch screens, to leave gratuities for a wider swath of services. (The pilot episode of HuffPost’s new podcast “Am I Doing It Wrong?” explored the confusion around tipping in today’s service economy.)

“It’s one of those things where you have a feeling you know what’s going on, but there’s not really a way to quantify that,” DeSilver said. “Certainly the perception is that people are being asked to tip in more places.”

DeSilver cautioned that the tipping survey has a drawback: This is the first year Pew has done it, so researchers couldn’t perform an apples-to-apples comparison with survey results from prior years. But he said they tried to frame the survey in a way that would capture whether people feel as though tipping expectations have changed.

He said the results reflected a lot of uncertainty around the custom.

“A lot of people say it is not particularly easy to know when to tip or how much to tip,” he said. “There is no authoritative single source on what the rules of tipping are.”

The survey also found that people generally don’t like being prompted with suggested tip amounts (40% oppose this practice, compared with 24% who favor it), and they very much dislike automatic tips or service charges (72% said they oppose them regardless of the size of their party). More restaurants seem to be adding automatic charges to bills―sometimes dubbed service fees or even “living wage” fees linked to minimum wage increases―although they don’t always go to the workers.

Meanwhile, a strong majority overall (72%) said they believe the tips they leave should stay with the restaurant worker who served them. However, this is often not the practice in restaurants that run tip pools; and spread the gratuities among other front-of-the-house workers, like bartenders and food runners.

Most respondants (77%) said they factor the quality of the service they received into how much of a tip they will leave. Only a quarter said a worker’s pre-tip wages serve as a major factor. Many tipped workers are paid a sub-minimum wage ―as low as $2.13 per hour in some states―with gratuities expected to make up the difference.

One of the more surprising findings for DeSilver: A majority of respondents said they were likely to tip 15% or less on a sit-down meal at a restaurant. Only a quarter said they would tip 20% or more.

He expected most people to land in the 18% to 20% range. “I generally thought that was the norm,” he said.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Hyundai to be first automaker to sell new cars on Amazon

November 20, 2023

Hyundai customers who want to skip going to a dealership will have a new option next year: shopping on for their new cars on, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The South Korean automaker announced the move on Thursday, November 16, along with Amazon at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Starting in 2024, U.S. auto dealers will be able to sell new vehicles on the tech company’s platform—making Hyundai the first automotive brand to offer such an option for customers.

“Despite the industry’s focus on improving this experience, customers continue to express frustration with the process,” José Muñoz, chief operating officer of Hyundai said at the LA Auto Show. “They see how easy it is to buy all the products on Amazon, and they want that convenience when buying a car.”

The companies said the arrangement will enable customers to purchase a new car on Amazon from a local dealership and then either pick it up or have it delivered.

Prospective buyers will be able to search on Amazon’s website for available vehicles in their area by model, color. and features, and then complete the process using their chosen payment and financing options.

As part of the companies’ partnership, Hyundai will include Amazon’s Alexa technology in the brand’s cars beginning in 2025, the companies said.

The plan underscores how the traditional car-buying experience is continuing to be upended for the automotive industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, automakers expanded at-home delivery programs, while dealers broadened their websites to help customers tour showrooms virtually.

Hyundai said that, initially, only 15 to 20 dealers will be able to sell their vehicles on Amazon, but that it will expand it to more by the end of next year. “Is this going to help us sell more cars? We believe so,” said Muñoz.

Amazon said it expects to increase car brand offerings on its platform by the end of next year as well.

Consumers in recent years have warmed to the idea of skirting the car dealer—particularly when it comes to newer electric-vehicle models.

Indeed, more EV buyers in 2022 were open to the idea of buying a car fully online compared with gas-powered vehicle buyers, according to a study from Cox Automotive, an industry research firm. Customers who completed more than half of the car-buying steps online were the most satisfied among all buyers in the study, Cox said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Facebook, Instagram will allow political ads that claim the 2020 election was stolen

November 17, 2023

Meta will allow political ads on its platforms to question the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election—part of a rollback in election-related content moderation among major social media platforms over the past year ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential contest, reports CNN.

The policy means that Metathe parent company of Facebook and Instagramwill be able to directly profit from political ads that boost false claims about the legitimacy of the 2020 election. While the company will allow political advertisements to claim that past elections, including the 2020 presidential race, were rigged, it will prohibit those that “call into question the legitimacy of an upcoming or ongoing election.”

The change is part of a year-old policy update but has not been widely reported. The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta’s ads policy had changed on Wednesday, November 15.

Meta says the policy allowing 2020 election denialism in political ads was part of an August 2022 announcement about its approach to last year’s midterm elections, when the company said it would prohibit ads targeting users in the United States, Brazil, Israel, and Italy that discourage people from voting, call into question the legitimacy of an upcoming or ongoing election, or prematurely claim an election victory.

That same month, Meta told The Washington Post that it would not remove posts from political candidates or regular users that claim voter fraud or that the 2020 election was rigged.

Meta’s broader electoral misinformation policy continues to prohibit content that could interfere with people’s ability to participate in voting or the census, such as false claims about the timing of an election, according to the company.

“We wish we could say we were surprised Meta is choosing to profit off of election denialism, but it seems to be a feature of theirs, not a bug,” TJ Ducklo, a representative for the Biden campaign, told CNN in a statement about Meta’s ad policy. “They amplified the lies behind the ‘stop the steal’ movement. Now they’re coming for its cash. Joe Biden won the election in 2020 clearly, unequivocally, and fairly—no matter what Meta choose to promote.”

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Biden campaign’s statement.

Seprately, Meta said earlier this month that it would require political advertisers around the world to disclose any use of artificial intelligence in their ads, starting next year, as part of a broader move to limit “deepfakes” and other digitally altered misleading content.

The company also said it would prohibit political advertisers from using the its new artificial intelligence tools, which help brands generate text, backgrounds, and other marketing content.

Research contact: @CNN

Colleges teach influencer courses as creators earn $100,000 a year

November 16, 2023

You may notice as you scroll through Instagram or TikTok that a young person is gushing about a cool new product that has made his or her life immeasurably better. Some of those people may be getting paid for that—and colleges are now offering courses to attract students interested in pursuing careers in the emerging field of social influencing, reports Newsweek.

The phenomenon is growing and attracting more entrants as it becomes more lucrative. In April, Goldman Sachs estimated that, over the next five years, the global “creator economy” would grow from $250 billion to $480 billion. The investment bank said that about 4% of creators worldwide earn a decent living, generating income upwards of $100,000 a year.

As more creators and influencers get in on the action, the competition for eyeballs is growing—and those who can build sizeable audiences will flock to places they can choose to work for platforms that can make them money.

“As a result, we expect some element of a ‘flight to quality,’ whereby creators will prioritize platforms with stability, scale, and monetization potential,” Eric Sheridan, Goldman’s senior equity research analyst, says.

Colleges are offering to train those interested in turning their social media presence into money-earning platforms.

UCLA Extension, for example, has a class for Fall 2023 that promises to teach students “how to establish credibility as an expert” and “build a genuine and significant” following using “methods of promoting that expertise through media and messages that match talents and markets” for a $525 for five weeks of classes.

Other colleges have begun to offer such courses—and even majors—focused on training potential influencers, pointing to an interest among students for such training.

Duke University in North Carolina has had a course “Building Global Audiences”, that, according to Bloomberg, taught students how to build up their presence online. Natalia Hauser, who attended the class, told the outlet that she can make thousands from partnerships with brands and found the class helpful in becoming a better business person when dealing with companies.

“I don’t think people understand how much money is in this industry,” Hauser said. “It involves a lot of negotiation and business.”

Professor Aaron Dinin, who taught the class at Duke, believes this is where the world has evolved to as more and more people are glued to their phones and look for information via social media platforms.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurial opportunity and a lot of reach,” he told Bloomberg.

Similar courses can be found at campuses around the country, such as at the

Robert Kozinets—who teaches “Influencer Relations” at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California—told ABC‘s Good Morning America in September that his classes look at influencers as a phenomenon and do not give specific instructions on how to be one.

“I don’t think you can teach someone to have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ charisma, and that stage presence,” Kozinets said. “I think what you can teach is the mechanics of some persuasion, understanding contracts, understanding the nuts and bolts of the industry, understanding how all those pieces fit together.”

Success in such an industry comes from the ability of influencers to strike deals with brands, with getting a piece of advertising share or the creation of their own brands for sales as being other avenues for revenue.

YouTube, one of the platforms popular with influencers, generated $35 billion last year for America’s economy through its “creative ecosystem”, according to Oxford Economics.

“YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported more than 390,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the US,” they said. Other platforms that tend to proliferate with influencers include video-friendly platforms, such as Meta‘s Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Goldman Sachs believes that “incumbent platforms” are more popular for creators.

“Goldman Sachs Research sees more creators moving to these platforms as competition heats up for their content and audiences—particularly as macroeconomic uncertainty impacts brand spending and as rising interest rates pressure funding for emerging platforms,” the investment bank said.

Research contact: @Newsweek

Village Medical’s dystopian ads herald a healthcare alternative

November 15, 2023

If you’re looking for a dystopian vision of healthcare in America, Village Medical has you covered, reports Medical Marketing and Media (MM+M).

In the ‘New Way to Well’ campaign from Village Medical—a recently-launched service from VillageMD—patients are confronted with a cold, harsh version of the nation’s healthcare system.

The 60-second spot titled “Factory” starts off with an ominous voiceover: “Today’s healthcare system can feel like a factory.”

During the ad, we see physicians moving abruptly in an assembly line fashion from patient to patient, the latter of whose expressions capture the resigned disappointment that many of us feel when—after weeks or months of waiting for an appointment—our two minutes with a doctor are quickly over.

While most patients can relate to this scenario, Village Medical sees the target for the campaign, which includes two 30-second and two 60-second commercials, as being older patients with chronic illnesses. These patients, specifically, require a more holistic approach to their health and the organization wants them to know they have their best interests at heart.

“What Village Medical is committed to doing is taking care of patients who manage chronic conditions,” Ellen Donahue-Dalton, chief marketing officer of VillageMD, explains. “Almost three quarters of Americans over the age of 65 have a condition that they will live with for their entire lives. They will take medications for it and, in some cases, have multiple medications for multiple conditions. The more medications, the greater the risk of falls, hospitalizations, and other complications. We are trying to reach the consumers who need the healthcare system to be more than just a transactional episodic system.”

In place of the healthcare infrastructure we know, the Village Medical approach is structured around care teams of physicians and advanced practice providers who collectively help patients to navigate their Village Medical Stay Well Care Plans. The ultimate goal is for fewer hospitalizations and better lives.

Donahue-Dalton says it was important that doctors not be portrayed as villains in a broken system. Deutsch NY, the creative agency responsible both for the ads and the broader 360 campaign, instead cast a sympathetic eye towards both patients and doctors as part of this effort.

“I can’t give Deutsch enough credit because we were asking them to walk this line between protecting our doctors—because they are heroes—and also demonstrate the problems inherent in the system in which all doctors operate,” Donahue-Dalton says. “This shows that there is a real alternative that can be delivered by Village Medical. Deutsch did this amazing job of balancing all those things in a way that was striking and provocative.”

The power of the ads comes from the menacing factory setting, lightened by a certain dark humor.

“Ellen’s the one that saw potential in this idea to begin with,” says Samira Ansari, chief creative officer at Deutsch NY. “It was easy for us to sort of think about a factory as a setting to talk about the healthcare system. We think of the system as being efficient—moving patients and practitioners around. However, it doesn’t work. It’s impersonal. It doesn’t give patients the care that they need, and on the other side, it doesn’t give practitioners the time to do their job the best way they can.”

Given that Village Medical is a relatively new player in the market, the hope placed in these ads is that they will resonate with patients and healthcare professionals alike.

“There are health systems in most markets that have been there for 50 years, even 100 years,” Donahue-Dalton says. “They have built the traditional system of care that most consumers put up with. We’re new to the market and needed to differentiate ourselves in a way that was provocative and yet show that we could also deliver a solution.”

At the time of our interview, Village Medical did not have metrics they could share about the campaign, but Donahue-Dalton describes an encouraging reception, anecdotally at least, among doctors.

“When they realize that this is their story and that they have a future path of practicing medicine the way that they believed they were going to be able to, the feedback and response has been overwhelmingly positive,” she says. “I don’t know if you’ve worked with a lot of doctors but their feedback is not always overwhelmingly positive.”

Research contact: @MMMnews