July 3, 2020

The influencer industry gets official

TikTok tastemakers and Instagram powerhouses are teaming up to take on politics.
July 3, 2020
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Hamilton makes its Disney+ debut today. That might seem like cause for celebration, but I was 15 during Hamilton’s heyday. I’m a battle-scarred veteran of the craze.

The most traumatic moment: The time a guy asked me to homecoming with a Hamilton-themed poster that read “I am not throwing away my shot!” And I said yes.

In my defense — that was basically the 2015 equivalent of a Shakespearean sonnet.

— Belle Long, Editorial Intern

Not An #Ad

Influencers are forming their own lobbying group

Get your Facetune ready: Influencers are gearing up for their moment in the political spotlight. 

This week, a small set of TikTok tastemakers and IG mavens banded together to launch a trade group, the American Influencer Council

Part of their goal is to legitimize influencing as an industry. The AIC wants to fund market research into the influencer economy and build a mentoring program for rising stars.

Another mission? Political lobbying

Washington is not prepared for these skincare routines

The arrival of the AIC is well timed. The FTC is reviewing a topic near and dear to the hearts — and wallets — of influencers: Ad disclosures.

The current law of the land is the FTC’s Endorsement Guide, which states that any connection between an endorser and the seller of a product must be “clearly and conspicuously disclosed.” 

But the guide is nonbinding, and there’s no real penalty for violating it. 

Lord & Taylor got in trouble with the FTC for a 2015 campaign. The company failed to disclose that it paid ~50 influencers to post in a paisley dress on Instagram. An FTC commissioner pointed out to TechCrunch that the company didn’t have to apologize, offer refunds, or even send a notice to customers.

The FTC wants to start levying fines against bad actors. And the AIC agrees. Rule-breakers are a drag on business. 

Unveiling the influencer political platform

A few of the AIC’s other demands

  • That ad-disclosure techniques — both their language and visual prominence — be standardized across the major social networks.
  • That the FTC review the Endorsement Guide every 3 years, instead of the glacial pace of every 10.
  • That the FTC put more resources into educating new influencers about its rules. 

If you have a mildly successful Insta account for your golden retriever and you want in on this new political movement, I have bad news: Admission to the AIC is invite-only. And frankly, Rex’s doggy bandana is very 2017.

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Home, sweet home

Equity ain’t just for homeowners anymore

Conventional wisdom says renters throw away money because they don’t build equity over time. But a couple of new startups are hoping to turn that idea on its head.

The security of ownership meets the flexibility of renting 

Rhove extends “renterships” to tenants in Rhove-partnered apartment complexes. The arrangements give tenants a stake in the building — and their assets grow with the property’s value.

Rhove acts as an investor in the property by paying a lump sum to the owners. Tenants earn returns as property owners collect rent from the whole building, and as the property appreciates, the value of the shares increases.

Nico offers a similar concept. 

The startup launched in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, where gentrification threatened to push out some long-time residents. By purchasing rent-stabilized buildings and registering them as a financial trust, Nico offers portfolio shares to residents… giving them a leg up in keeping their homes.

What’s the bottom line?

A young person will spend $200k+ in rent over the course of his or her lifetime. With many Americans dropping ⅓ of their income on rent, it’s hard to save money to eventually buy a home. 

And renters generally don’t have the same opportunities to accrue wealth as homeowners. One study found wide wealth gaps between older homeowners and renters, even when their incomes are similar.

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Call me, beep me

The criminal underworld just lost its favorite messaging app

If your friends have been swapping messages on Encrochat, it’s time to hit them with a little side eye.

You can think of EncroChat as WhatsApp’s evil twin. Criminals across Europe gathered to discuss the mundanities of drug dealing — names of clients, price points, amounts of cocaine and ketamine on hand. 

For hitmen and drug dealers, downloading EncroChat was a professional necessity. As of last month, ~60k people were using it. 

But then European authorities hacked EncroChat and downloaded reams of incriminating messages. On Thursday, they announced they had arrested 746 criminals and recovered 2 metric tons of drugs, 77 firearms, and $67m+ in cash. 

How EncroChat found product/market fit

You couldn’t get EncroChat off of the App Store. To use the service, you had to pay thousands of dollars a year for an EncroPhone, which VICE compared to an Android device with the GPS, camera, and microphone removed.

What made EncroChat so popular was its arsenal of privacy tools: Enter a PIN, for instance, and the “wipe” feature would clear your device of all data.

EncroChat shut down last month, but an encrypted phone company called Omerta has already stepped in to fill the void. 

Referring to EncroChat, Omerta wrote in a blog post, “Did you narrowly escape the recent Mass Extinction Event? Celebrate with 10 percent off. Join the Omerta family and communicate with impunity.”

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SPONSORED

Sam’s latest business move? Stocking up on this

No, it’s not actually a stock — it’s a cereal

Specifically, a high-protein, low-sugar, healthier-than-broccoli-okay-maybe-not-that-healthy new option that’s making a serious splash in the breakfast industry’s bowl: Magic Spoon.

What makes Magic Spoon so special? 

Well, besides the fact that it’s caused Sam to go on endless Slack rants about how great it is, and the nutrient breakdown being out of this world (each serving contains 11g protein, 0g sugar, and only 110 calories), Magic Spoon was also named one of the top 100 inventions of 2019 by TIME Magazine.

Question: Do you know how amazing a breakfast food has to be to get named one of the top inventions of the year? 

Answer: Astonishingly f$*%&’n good. 

If you’re itching to try it for yourself, order their Nutty case here.

It comes with their two newest flavors (Peanut Butter and Honey Nut) and finally answers the age-old question on all of our minds… 

Why were those kids so mean to the Trix rabbit? 

Can cereal change your life?

Order Magic Spoon →
You lucky dog

The good, the bad, and the ugly of your corporate swag

This week, we looked at the evolution of branded swag during the pandemic. We asked you to ID some of the best and worst, erm… prizes… you’ve ever received.

You didn’t disappoint:

  • Mike gushed about a giant fishing lure — 29 inches! He wasn’t as enthusiastic about the stale popcorn someone once gave him. Maybe he could use that to attract fish, too?
  • Jared liked a bottle opener/seed depth tool. “It’s used to measure the depth of seeds in a field or the height of a plant,” he said. “Add a bottle opener to it, and you can enjoy a cold (or warm) beer while out in the fields.” Right on.
  • Ysmay once received an Acer mini laptop with Livescribe pen. Makes sense that Ysmay was unimpressed by a water bottle that “started to smell like melting plastic” after 5 uses.

Which leads us to the swag that made you gag.

  • Poor Christopher once picked up a “collector’s edition” Smirnoff bottle from a liquor distributor. Alas: “Apparently it’s for display purposes.”
  • Heather said a power bank was the best and worst promotional product she ever received: “It was given to me after a job interview. I didn’t get the job.”
  • And then there’s Ben, who once got… a logoed condom. I guess that’s one way for a brand to make a personal connection?
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Stonks

It was a good day for the ‘-ade’ class of startup IPO’s

The pandemic gave us lemons, but the stock market decided to make some Lemonade.

Lemonade, the SoftBank-backed upstart that wants to disrupt the stodgy insurance industry, had a big trading debut on Wall Street on Thursday. It priced its initial offering at $29 per share — and by the closing bell, its stock price had risen to more than $69, up ~140%.

The company raised almost $320m in its IPO. It all adds up to a big win for SoftBank, which contributed $420m of the $480m that Lemonade had raised already.

This guide from Marker breaks down the essentials of Lemonade’s business (which has yet to post a profit), if you’re in the mood for another glass.

It’s not the only one winning accolades…

…because investors gave Accolade, a health-tech startup, a round of applause, too.

Accolade works with companies to help employees navigate health-care benefits. Its client base includes American Airlines, Comcast, Lowe’s, and State Farm. The company sold shares at $22 each, above the expected range of $19 to $21. Accolade’s stock ended the day at more than $29, up 35%.

The takeaway from Thursday, which extended a recent run of successful Wall Street launches: The IPO market is sweet, bitter as our economic prospects may be.

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Snippets

1️⃣  The luxe luggage brand Away said CEO Steph Korey is stepping down, after she made controversial remarks on social media.

2️⃣  Facebook is shutting down Lasso, one of its twin attempts to topple TikTok. 

3️⃣  Airbnb’s plan to crack down on illicit parties: Block some under-25-year-olds from booking homes.

4️⃣  A reminder to wear masks is about to hit your Instagram and Facebook news feeds.

5️⃣  Walmart is getting in on the drive-in movie theater game. 

6️⃣  Forget fever checks: Smell tests might be an even better way for businesses to detect COVID-19.

7️⃣  One benefit of plexiglass-enhanced dining: You can smell your food more clearly.

8️⃣  If you’re really missing the experience of going through airport security, an airport in Taiwan has just the thing for you: The flight to nowhere.

9️⃣  A spicy crime caper: The police in China arrested 3 people suspected of scamming the tech behemoth Tencent by pretending to represent Lao Gan Ma, a popular (and delicious) brand of chili sauce.

🔟  Yes, even sparrow songs can go viral.

Sunday Sneak Peek

Sometimes, our stories hit close to home. Sunday’s deep dive is a good example.

Last Monday, our Zack Crockett’s dad got a call from someone claiming to be a federal agent. The caller said his ID had been linked to a bunch of crimes — including the discovery of an abandoned car near the Texas border that had 22 pounds of cocaine in it.

The call left him shaken, and the incident has an unfortunate ending: He was scammed out of $3k of gift cards he was persuaded to buy.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. Last year, 400k Americans fell for these kinds of scams. Sunday’s story will help you understand how these scammers operate — watch this week’s preview for a taste of what’s to come.

Shower Thoughts

In honor of tomorrow’s holiday, have some patriotic Shower Thoughts. (Happy 4th, y’all.)

1.  People who get arrested on the Fourth of July lose their freedom by over-celebrating their independence.

2. The average number of fingers on July 3rd is probably almost always higher than on July 4th.

3. The Fourth of July is when a whole country eats hot dogs and blows stuff up to remind their ex how well they’ve been doing since the breakup. ‬

4. People who do midnight fireworks on the Fourth of July are stupid, since they’re actually doing them on the 5th of July.

5. Today, while enjoying the pool and BBQ, just think… Independence Day celebrations would suck a whole lot if we had declared our independence in January.

via Reddit
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Today’s email was brought to you by Manny Burns (Fireworks Safety Supervisor), Nick “Uninfluencer” DeSantis, Michael Waters, Caroline Dohack, Belle Long, and Bobby Durben.

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