Minions are everywhere
Jul 6, 2022
Episode 707

Minions are everywhere

Let's find out how film marketing really works!

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for us to answer questions from you! With “Minions: The Rise of Gru” becoming the latest movie to dominate grocery store advertising, one listener wonders how these massive cross promotions work. We’ve got the inside scoop. Plus, answers to your questions about employers offering to cover abortion costs, El Salvador’s efforts to make bitcoin a national currency, and big news in the world of beer!

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Have a question about the economy, tech or culture? Send it our way. We’re at You can also leave us a voice message at (508) 827-6278 or (508) U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart July 6, 2022 transcript


Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.


Kimberly Adams: But it seems we’re both here. So shall we begin?


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I’m ready. Just wanna say it’s Charlton today actually.


Kimberly Adams: It’s Juan Carlos. Hey, I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense.


Kai Ryssdal: No matter who is engineering and pushing buttons down in downtown Los Angeles. I’m Kai Ryssdal. Thank you for joining us for Whaddya Wanna Know Wednesday, we will get smarter together via the questions all y’all send us by whatever method you do so.


Kimberly Adams: And if you’ve got a question about the economy, or business, or tech, email us at Or you can leave us a voicemail, our number is 508-U-B-SMART.


Kai Ryssdal: All right. Up first today, we’re gonna go to the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v Wade. The case is known as Dobbs. Here’s the question.


Jeff: Hey, this is Jeff from Chicago. I have a question about the employers who are saying that they will pay for abortion coverage or the travel for abortion coverage. How exactly do they plan to do that? Hoping you can make me smart.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I think companies are hoping that other people can help make them smart on that too, because frankly, they are still sorting it out. Meghan McCarty Carino did a story on this last week, and the big concern here is basically about employee privacy. So you know, it’s not like you want to tell your boss that you want to get an abortion and therefore need access to these funds. And your boss for various liability reasons, probably doesn’t want to know. And so Meghan talked to a bunch of HR experts who said workers shouldn’t have to ask their managers or provide personal information to use the benefits. So one way that companies are doing this is to offer the benefits to health insurance companies. So for example, if I’m doing some irresponsible stunt and break my leg, I can go to the hospital and get it fixed with my health insurance and probably still pay a lot of money. But when I show up with a cast the next day, nobody’s going to know what I was doing. Because it’s not like the doctor is going to tell on me. So by the same metric, companies could cover out of state travel for health care, and you’d file for reimbursement, and then that insurance company would demonstrate that it’s actually health care. Others are planning to offer like a medical stipend, through a third party provider. And these are some of the same providers that cover services like fertility treatments, and gender affirming care. However, creating the benefit is one thing, but really making sure that workers feel comfortable using it is a different story. Because I mean, if you imagine that you’re in a state where you might go to jail for this, it’s really how much do you trust your employer and your insurance company. And so, experts say that companies have to foster a culture starting with management, that makes it clear that taking time off without a reason is okay. That’s sort of the first step.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, yeah. I just think there’s so much we don’t know that it’s going to play out differently in every state, first of all, and also in ways that I don’t think anybody’s really thought through yet, which I said a couple of days ago. I just, I don’t think so.


Kimberly Adams: Yeah, one thing that keeps coming up for me, it’s just like, there’s so much that literally didn’t exist pre Roe in terms of how we manage the health care of people. And all of that has to be sorted through now. And so, yeah, it is interesting. All right. Next question is about cryptocurrency, our favorite topic.


Jen: Hi this is Jen the librarian calling from Pennsylvania. I was wondering if you could make me smart about the country that had linked its currency to Bitcoin. Since Bitcoin has fallen so much, I was wondering how that country was doing. I hadn’t heard much about it since. Thanks. Bye.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s a really good question. So the reason you haven’t heard much about it is because it’s not going very well for the country of El Salvador. So last September, the president of El Salvador Nayib Bukele, announced that Bitcoin was going to be legal tender in that country. Which is number one, a leap, and number two, financially and economically risky and gutsy. They invested a boatload of money, billions of dollars into Bitcoin, bought it, bought it, bought it, have been buying it since, and now are down, from the beginning of the year, 60% – 60% on their holdings, right? There are very, very few people in that country using crypto as a means of transaction. Very few people have downloaded the app that lets you do that in El Salvador. It’s just. Look, crypto is gonna be the monetary future, but it’s not yet. So that’s how El Salvador is doing really, really not great. Really not great.


Kimberly Adams: And what was interesting in one of the stories – that I think it was the New York Times story about this was that, you know, this app that people could use in El Salvador to make transactions in Bitcoin, if you downloaded it, you basically got a chunk of cash-ish Bitcoin money in the app, as like an incentive to use it to sort of get it spurred on. And basically, once people used up that initial chunk of cash, they just stopped. And this is like the end. Done.


Kai Ryssdal: Yep, totally. Here’s one last little tidbit, and thanks Marissa for putting this in the prep. President Bukele is still really popular down there. Polls show more than 8 in 10 Salvadorans continue to support him. So Bitcoin be damned, I guess.


Kimberly Adams: I guess.


Kai Ryssdal: Peter in Wisconsin, go.


Peter: Every summer I noticed that half the items at the grocery store have cross promotions with the big blockbuster movies or shows. Can you make me smart on how these cross promotions actually work? Did the studios reach out to the manufacturers to get their movies on the labels? Or is it the other way around, that the food manufacturers want to be associated with the biggest movie of the summer? So they pay to have it on their labels? Which side is making the money on these deals?


Kimberly Adams: Have you seen one too many minions themed item in the store there, Peter? Perhaps? Perhaps perhaps. Right. Minions are everywhere. And of course these are the little yellow characters based on the – what is it, Pixar, that does Despicable Me that series?


Kai Ryssdal: Illumination studios?


Kimberly Adams: Illumination studios, okay. Yes, so the minions being the spin off from Despicable meme, little yellow creatures that you know, are followers of villains and they have their own movie out this summer. And the product placements are everywhere. Packaged salads, chickpea puffs, muffins, banana scented body wash, because they like to say banana. I know way too much about the minions. Wow. Okay, so for this question, we reached out to Stacy Jones at Hollywood Branded, which is an agency that connects brands with studios. And so she says it works both ways in response to the question, sometimes brands will reach out to the studios and sometimes the studios will reach out to manufacturers to get the firm’s intellectual property incorporated into like packaging, displays, or commercial spots. And you know, there’s also product placement within movies and stuff like that. Typically, these kinds of partnerships will happen within an 8 to 12 week window of a film’s release, because you have to imagine it needs to sit on the shelves for a while and work through the inventory. In terms of who’s making money, often, money isn’t actually exchanging hands between the manufacturers and the studio for these kinds of partnership. It’s more like the filmmaker is temporarily loaning intellectual property to the brand, which is considered a win win because for the studio, it can offset the cost of marketing the movie, because now we’re talking about minions on making me smile, because everyone’s staring at minions in the store. And then, that could be just as expensive, the branding and marketing a movie can be almost as expensive as making a movie sometimes. And then, the cross promotional branding works as many advertisements also for the product. You know, your kid really loves minions, you may end up getting a minion themed product regardless of whether you want it or not. But these partnerships are different from the licensing deals that happen outside that 8 week window of a movie’s release, and there may be a whole new product line that’s developed and marketed year round. I’m thinking, because I may have recently purchased some of these, you know, like, the SpongeBob Square Pants, fruit snacks. That’s a little different and those licensees fees can cost manufacturers about 10% of whatever it makes off the product. And then of course, you have the merchandising and like, hats and blankets and sweaters and all kinds of things. $292 billion global sales revenue of licensed merchandise in 2019.


Kai Ryssdal: Everybody makes money. Everybody makes money on those deals. That’s why they did them and they they’ve been doing them since you know, forever. For bleeping ever. Tell you what, let’s go to beer for this next one. Beer for the last one?


Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Yeah, let’s do it.


Kai Ryssdal: Let’s go to beer. Okay.


Ward: Hi, this is Ward from Bethesda, Maryland. I am calling Kai I guess about the news that Sapporo USA is going to acquire Stone Brewing. I want to hear what you think about that Kai, let us know.


Kai Ryssdal: I was kind of shocked actually. So this is new. So anybody who’s watched the Friday thing or listen to me, frankly, on the air and heard me talk about beer knows that, long long ago, I discovered Stone Brewing. And they are sort of the OG West Coast IPA Brewing Company. Started like 25 ish, 28 ish years ago out on the West Coast. I had Greg Koch on, he’s a listener of Marketplace, and of this podcast in point of fact. About 10 years ago or so we had him on Marketplace. I was kind of surprised at this, because their business is doing pretty well. It was sort of shocking, but I have two thoughts. Number one is, good for them. Greg’s been doing this for 25, 30 years, and he finally got his exit. It’s like $145 ish million deal. There’s some debt involved as well. And Greg said, look, I’ve been doing beer for 25, 30 years, he said this in a farewell post. And it’s time for me to do something else. It’s time for somebody else to run Stone. It’s time for us to figure out a way to leverage the Stone brand with a bigger company. Stone is the ninth biggest brewing company in the United States, but it’s still relatively small. Yeah, it’s still relatively small. So they’re getting some global reach with Sapporo. I just, I want them to keep their beers the same. I want to keep the attitude the same. I’m not actually by the way getting paid by stone for this, I just think they make good beer. But here’s the other thing that happened. So I’ve talked before on this podcast, I think, about Golden Road Brewing, which is a microbrewery that started here in Los Angeles. We did a brewery tour with them probably five, eight years ago. And it was great. It was really fun. It was started by a woman and a guy here in LA. They started it as a passion, they built it. And then they sold out to – I think it was Anheuser Busch InBev. And I was little bummed at the time, because I was like, oh, man, that’s this conglomerate taking over this cool company. But here’s the thing, if you start a tech company in this economy, just for instance, and those founders make, I don’t know, $100 million, by selling to a bigger company. Everybody goes, yay, that’s great. They got their exit. Craft beer, people go, oh, no, man, don’t mess up the beer. So yay for the people who worked and built Stone. Just don’t mess up the beer. That’s what I’m saying. That’s what I think about Stone Brewing. It’s important.


Kimberly Adams: It’s so funny that you mentioned AB InBev, because I remember the horror in St. Louis, when people found out that Anheuser Busch was going to be purchased by a foreign company. People lost their minds. And everyone’s like, don’t change the beer, and what’s going to happen to Busch Stadium, and this is going to be terrible. And you know, people lost it. And now we are here. People are very serious about their beer. That’s exactly. And we still have our Clydesdales, which is what really matters.


Kai Ryssdal: That’s true. That is true. So there you go.


Kimberly Adams: That was like the highlight of my childhood. Anytime there was like a festival or fair, like they bring out the Clydesdales and you get to pet them, and it was so cool.


Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, totally. Yes, totally.


Kimberly Adams: Beer. Yay. All right. That’s it for us today. Thank you for listening. We will be back tomorrow with more news and more smiles.


Kai Ryssdal: In the meanwhile send us your questions, your comments, your thoughts, whatever you’d like to say, Or you can leave us a voicemail, 508-U-B-SMART.


Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Olivia Zhao is our intern. Ellen Rolfes writes our newsletter.


Kai Ryssdal: Juan Carlos Torrado was in charge downtown. Ben Tolliday and Daniel Ramirez was composed our theme music. Our senior producer – although she’s off this week, I don’t know what you’re doing – is Bridget Bodnar.


Kimberly Adams: She ran away.


Kai Ryssdal: She ran away, that’s right.


Kimberly Adams: She ran away and joined a circus.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Producer
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