Grasping for straws that stir the drink.

Month: February, 2013

I bought a hybrid and it costs $20 a month

Detroit — Nineteen dollars is enough for a meal and dessert at Bennigan’s, a nosebleed seat at a sporting event and, presently, about a third of a tank of gas.

But in no way can $19 buy you a cell phone plan with talk, text and data, right?


Republic Wireless, a division of telecom company, has brought to market an Android-powered Motorola phone with unlimited features for just $19 a month.

That’s the price, now here’s the catch: The phone, a DEFY XT, uses a hybrid technology to place phone calls and surf the web. When in range of Wi-Fi, the phone uses Wi-Fi; when Wi-Fi is unavailable, Sprint’s 3G network kicks into gear.

It’s an imperfect system (calls can drop if a customer leaves a Wi-Fi zone), but it’s a system I’m willing to gamble on.

But after spending $100 a month for the the past 23 months as a Verizon Wireless customer, I didn’t hesitate to cut my phone budget by 80 percent — without committing to a two-year contract mandated by other phone providers — and switch to one of Republic’s plans.

My choice was a $249 phone that runs outdated Android software, followed by monthly payments of $19. Republic recently added a second package, where consumers can buy the same phone for $99 and pay $29 per month. (Note: Though less money up front, after 16 months of the $29 plan, it becomes the more expensive of the two.)

The Raleigh, N.C.-based company also plans to offer additional phones later this summer.

Changing industry

Wireless billing analysis firm Validas says that 80 percent of wireless subscribers overpay for their mobile services, despite analyst projections that 80 percent of cell phone users qualify for discounts through multi-phone or business plans.

The Motorola DEFY XT is currently the only phone for Republic Wireless plans.

Smartphone use is projected to top 1 billion by 2015. Wi-Fi use will also increase, and the Federal Communications Commission has responded to the need for additional Wi-Fi frequencies by announcing plans to open up a previously restricted frequency spectra.

The growing Wi-Fi demand is partly a result of wireless companies “throttling back,” or slowing the speed, of cell-phone data packages. Gone too are the days of widespread unlimited data packages. Verizon and AT&T have previously halted unlimited data plans.

The solution is more Wi-Fi. Republic’s customer base currently uses Wi-Fi — as opposed to Sprint’s 3G network — more than 60 percent of the time, said David Morken, co-founder and chief executive of Bandwidth, in a recent interview with the New York Times.

A grand experiment

My current Verizon plan includes 450 minutes and unlimited text messaging and data. I’ve never exceeded my allotted minutes and surf the web primarily using Wi-Fi.

That puts me in the minority of most cell phone users.

The DEFY XT is no iPhone 5. Hell, it’s probably not even on par with an iPhone 3. But as long as I can send messages, tweet and ask Google the occasional trivia question, it will suffice, especially if I save nearly $1,700 compared to my current Verizon plan.

And if it doesn’t, I’ll sulk back to Verizon, spend a few hundred dollars on a snazzy new smartphone and continue to burn through Benjamin Franklins each month.

You know, just like everyone else.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.


Ranking the automotive Super Bowl ads

Detroit — Automakers showed 12 commercials during Super Bowl XLVII. About half were hits, the other half misses. Space babies, Jamaican accents and crazy storylines didn’t register well on my radar. Here’s five that did:

1. Audi, “Prom”

Easily the best creative storyline. Relatable to most all. Memorable.

2. Mercedes-Benz, “Soul”

A lot less Kate Upton than most of us wanted, but the connection between a gaggle of attractive women and a $30,000 Benz could not have been made more succinctly.

3. Jeep, “Whole Again”

Two years ago, Chrysler won the hearts of Detroit with its “Imported from Detroit” ad. Now, the automaker’s Jeep brand scored with the whole nation with its “Whole Again” spot featuring Oprah Winfrey.

4. Hyundai, “Stuck”

Automakers have repeatedly shown ads where their cars can easily pass similar competitor models. But relatively few consumers care as much about passing “the guy with the Ford” as they do the “crazy dip—- with the s— hanging off his car.”

5. Ram, “Farmer”

This commercial doesn’t really focus on Ram trucks as much as it does farmers. Still, it scored extremely well immediately following its airing.

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.


Detroit — Super Bowl XLVII is upon us. And so are the commercials. In honor of the 47-or-so minutes of ad time during the 47th Super Bowl, here are 47 fun non-football facts about the big game:

Kate Upton Verlander

We all know Kate Upton will make an appearance in a Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl commercial. Here are 47 Super Bowl ad fun facts you may not know.

1. One-fourth of TV homes that watched last year’s Super Bowl had a household income of $100,000 or more. (Nielsen)

2. About the same number had household incomes of $30,000 or less. (Nielsen)

3. The average cost of a 30-second ad in this year’s Super Bowl is $3.4 million. The average cost of a 30-second commercial during primetime television can cost about $100,000. (Nielsen)

4. More than 130 marketers have spent $1.85 billion advertising during the Super Bowl since 2003. (Kantar Media)

5. Anheuser-Busch InBev has spent nearly $250 million on Super Bowl ads during that time. (Kantar Media)

6. General Motors Co. has spent the most money of any automaker advertising during the Super Bowl since 2003. GM has spent nearly $100 million during that time. The automaker will not advertise during Super Bowl XLVII. (Kantar Media)

GM made a splash during last year’s Super Bowl with its spot “Apocalypse,” but will remain silent during this year’s big game.

7. General Motors won’t spend $4 million on a Super Bowl ad, but did spend $165 million advertising during the NFL regular season (Kantar Media)

8. Automakers collectively spent three times more  on Super Bowl ads last year than any other industry. (Nielsen)

9. Twelve auto brands spent nearly $95 million on 16 ad spots during last year’s Super Bowl. (Kantar Media)

10. Despite all that spending, no automaker made Nielsen’s Top 10 “most remembered ads” list. (Nielsen)

11. Despite being forgettable, automakers held down the final four spots on Nielsen’s “most liked ads” list. Audi, Chrysler, Chevrolet and Honda took spots No. 7 through 10, respectively. (Nielsen)

12. General manufacturers did not have any Super Bowl ads from 2008 through 2011. (Nielsen)

13. In 2003, 83 ads comprised 40 minutes, 35 seconds of commercial time. (Kantar Media)

14. In 2012, 78 ads took up 47 minutes, 25 seconds of commercial time. (Kantar Media)

15. Half of this year’s Super Bowl ads will feature hashtags. (CNBC)

Hashtags will invade this year’s Super Bowl commercials.

16. Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults will watch this year’s Super Bowl with as much interest (or more) in the commercials as the actual game itself. (Harris Interactive)

17. Sixty percent of viewers ages 18 to 34 say having a computer nearby is at least somewhat important in order to have the best Super Bowl experience. (Hanon McKendry)

18. Nearly 50 percent of viewers in that same age bracket say the same thing about a smartphone. (Hanon McKendry)

19. Commercial teasers work … A sneak peak of Volkswagen’s 2012 ad attracted nearly three times as many social media shares (1.1 million) than the game-day ad itself (396,000). (Unruly Media)

20. Commercials last … Fifty-five percent of all social media shares happened after March 1 — nearly a month after the Super Bowl. (Unruly media)

21. … But only if they’re good. More than 90 percent of all Super Bowl commercial social media shares came from the top 20 ads. (Unruly Media)

22. Volkswagen has been the most shared brand on social media during the Super Bowl the past two years. Chrysler was No. 2 in 2011; Chevrolet was No. 2 last year. (Unruly Media)

23. CBS nixed a SodaStream Super Bowl ad this year because of its negative edge toward longtime sponsors Coca-Cola and Pepsi. SodaStream will replace the spot with a similar commercial — minus Coca-Cola and Pepsi branding.

24. USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter program will this year, for the first time, include commercials that air during halftime. (USA Today)

25. A food or beverage has won the Ad Meter every year since 1992, when Michael Jordan called himself “Hare Jordan” in a Nike commercial. (USA Today)

26. The audience tuneaway rate — the frequency in which viewers ignore commercials — during the average commercial last year was 0.7 percent, or seven out of every 1,000 viewers. A normal rate for TV programming is about 3 to 4 percent. (Kantar Media)

27. Super Bowl ads are getting longer. Nearly 20 percent of the commercials in 2012 were 60 seconds or longer, twice as many compared to 2011. Only six percent of commercials on broadcast television are 60 seconds or longer. (Kantar Media)

28. For all the money spent on ads, more people watched last year’s Super Bowl halftime show (114 million) than the actual game (111.3 million). And Madonna, like all other Super Bowl halftime performers, received no compensation. (AOL)

29. The shortest Super Bowl commercial was half-a-second, set by a Seattle seafood joint called Ivar’s in 2009.

30. The longest Super Bowl commercial was Chrysler’s 2011 spot featuring Eminem.

31. Research In Motion (Blackberry) will for the first time this year air a Super Bowl ad. (AdAge)

32. In 2012, the average 30-second Super Bowl ad cost $3.5 million, up 60 percent from the $2.15 million price tag in 2003. (Kantar Media)

33. Instead of paying $4 million for a 30-second spot that will be seen by approximately 111 million, an advertiser could buy 130 million impressions on Hulu. (Digiday)

34. Mercedes-Benz will get the most exposure during this year’s Super Bowl, thanks to a 60-second commercial and 379 seconds of on-screen shots and mentions, which will garner at least $12.2 million in media exposure. (ImageTrack)

35. Milk has never been advertised nationally during the Super Bowl. Until this year.

36. Humor and animals are the most popular creative elements during the past three Super Bowls. This is explains why Doritos (“Pug Attack“) has been the most effective Super Bowl advertiser during that stretch. Coca-Cola’s polar bears and Budweiser’s Clydesdales also stand out. (Ace Metrix)

37. This is one of the somewhat creepy ways advertisers can determine how and when they will screw with your brain. (Sands Research)

38. Kids play better with viewers than celebrities. (University of Wisconsin Eau Claire)

39. Nearly 30 percent of an ad’s impact is lost if the sound is off. (AdWeek)

40.,, PETA (“Veggie Love”) and have all been rejected as Super Bowl ad sponsors. (

41. If all players on both teams pooled the money they will earn during the Super Bowl, they still would not have enough money to buy a full 60-second ad during the game. Winners earn $88,000; losers earn $44,000. (Math)

42. Winners, however, could each buy two 30-second spots if ad rates did not change from Super Bowl 1, when the going rate was $40,000 per half-minute. That also means losers could each buy one 30-second ad, too. (More math)

43. There will be more action during commercials (47-plus) than during the actual game. An NFL game has an average of 11 minutes of action. (WSJ)

44. Pepsi has outspent Coca-Cola by approximately $100 million during the past 10 Super Bowls. (Kantar Media)

45. A seven-game World Series will generate more ad revenue than one Super Bowl. (Kantar Media)

46. In 1984, a 30-second spot cost $370,000 and reached 78 million viewers. In today’s dollars, that’s less than $1 million. (WaPo)

47. In the last three minutes of last year’s Super Bowl, social media users sent an average of 10,000 tweets per second. (AllThingsD)

Follow Karl Henkel on Twitter, friend him on Facebook.