In today's VideoDaily Roundup, Ashton Kutcher, Popchips and their ad agency have run into a heap of trouble over a character they collaborated on for a new commercial for the chipmaker. Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes applauds speculation that Hulu may switch to an authentication model. And one startup's seed financing round reignites bubble fears in Silicon Valley. Next, Mark Cuban invests in a social TV startup. Finally: Google and BrightRoll partner to bring video ads to mobile apps.
Kutcher's Controversial Popchips Ad Pulled Down
Popchips was forced to pull down an ad featuring actor Ashton Kutcher portraying an Indian character named "Raj" on Wednesday following heavy criticism from Indian-Americans that the character Kutcher portrays in the ad perpetuates stereotypes. According to The New York Times, Popchips, the ad agency Zambezi, and Kutcher developed the $1.5 million campaign. In it, Kutcher is featured as four different characters looking for love, one of which is "Raj."
One particularly irate response stood out -- that of tech entrepreneur Anil Dash, who wrote: "Right now you're making the world worse. Not just for me, or a billion other Indian people, but for my son, who I am hoping never has to grow up with people putting on fake Indian accents in order to mock him. Maybe people won’t be familiar with that stereotype if you, yes you personally, can refrain from spending millions of dollars and countless hours of your time on perpetuating that stereotype in order to sell potato chips."
The "Raj" video has since been taken off Popchips’ YouTube channel and the character has also been removed from the company’s Facebook page.
Bewkes: Hulu Should Switch to Authentication Model
During Time Warner's Q1 earnings call, CEO Jeff Bewkes echoed CBS Corp.'s Les Moonves by responding positively to rumors that Hulu would start requiring users to prove they have a cable subscription before using its service. "We think Hulu authenticating makes sense," Bewkes said. "We think Hulu is heading in the right direction now, and it might continue to be viable."
During the call, Bewkes also said that HBO Go was having "a significant positive impact" on Time Warner's business: fully 93 percent of subscribers said HBO Go makes them more loyal to HBO, and they generally watch more HBO than they used to as a result.
Bewkes also mentioned that Ultraviolet, the joint digital cloud service offered by major Hollywood studios, had reached 2 million accounts and more than 5,000 titles available for download and streaming. He said that half of the registered accounts had been created in the past month.
Vungle Raises Money, Questions About Tech Bubble
Vungle, a “barely hatched” startup that helps app developers make video promo reels of their work, just raised $2 million in a seed round led by Crosslink Capital, along with Google Ventures, AOL Ventures, Ron Conway's SV Angel and other angel investors, All Things Digital's Peter Kafka reports. “Multimillion-dollar seed rounds would have been unheard of a couple years ago,” he says. “Now they’re increasingly commonplace…and they’re part of the reason that you’re hearing lots of bubble talk right now."
Apparently, Vungle's co-founders, Zain Jaffer, 24, and Jack Smith, 23, weren't looking to raise so much money right out of the gate. According to Kafka, the pair pitched Crosslink's David Silverman at his home on a weekend, and got a commitment the next day. "As soon as you tell people you don't want money, that's when they want to give you money," Smith says. At least maybe that's how it is in Silicon Valley these days.
Cuban, Lauder Invest in Social TV Startup
Flingo, a startup that mixes social networking with broadcast content on Connected TVs and other devices, received a $1 million injection of Series A funding from billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban and venture capitalist Gary Lauder, bringing its total Series A funding to $8 million, CNET reports.
The four-year old startup is the largest publisher of Connected TV apps and is now available in 118 countries. Flingo’s media partners include Fox, A+E, Showtime, Warner Bros., CBS, Blip, and Vimeo; its hardware partners include Samsung, LG, Vizio, Sanyo, Insignia, Western Digital, Netgear and others.
"I truly believe the future of TV is TV and Flingo will be one of the companies out front," Cuban said in a statement.
Google-BrightRoll Alliance Brings Video Ads to Mobile Apps
Yesterday, Google and video ad network BrightRoll announced a partnership that sees BrightRoll pre-roll video inventory being integrated into Google’s AdMob software development kit for app makers. This means that app makers that use the AdMob SDK will now be able to deploy BrightRoll video ads in their mobile apps.
As ReelSEO's Christopher Rick points out: “Being able to utilize an SDK will save a lot of work on the app development side,” because working with lots of separate mobile and video ad networks can be difficult for developers. The alliance should also mean better revenue for them, since video means higher CPMs.