The Value Of The 'Wassup' Concept
from the it's-not-all-money dept
I’m almost afraid to post this because I worry that the comments will devolve into yet another totally wasted and pointless political battle. This post has nothing at all to do with the politics behind this ad, but about stuff that we actually do focus on around here: royalties and ownership rights of ideas and concepts. As you may have already seen (along with millions of others) the original actors behind the super famous Budweiser “Wassssssssssup!” commercials recently got back together to make a new political ad that’s an update on the original Bud ad. The commercial makers make it quite clear that the message of the commercial is not in any way endorsed by or associated with Anheuser-Busch.
That raises some questions about both trademark and control over the concept. Luckily, Business Week got to the bottom of things and found out that, Charles Stone III, who created the whole Wassup concept, directed the first commercial and stars as the first guy who picks up the phone, never gave Anheuser-Busch full control over the concept. Rather, he sold them an exclusive on it for only 5 years for a grand total of $37,000. He admits that people laughed at him at the time for selling so “low,” but he’s quite happy with how it worked out:
“That I’m able to use an idea distributed by a huge company, who made a lot of money off it, so that now when I put out what I want to say, it’s recognizable, and it sparks — that’s worth $1 million to me.”
Now there’s someone who recognizes long term value. Rather than focusing on pushing for more money upfront, he knew that there would be plenty of value down the road, so long as AB didn’t take over control of the concept. Since no one knew how successful the commercials would be, $37,000 was probably quite a good deal at the time, and in the end it worked out well for both parties, with Stone recognizing plenty of additional value down the road, built on the success of the original commercials. Now, some traditional IP maximalists may whine that he’s somehow unfairly profiting off of the success of the original commercial, but that’s not true. AB got what they paid for and made their money. The fact that someone else can later take advantage of that themselves to gain value (whether monetarily or not) doesn’t impact that earlier deal at all. In fact, the end result is greater overall value. The initial use increased value (for AB) and the new use increases value for Stone. It’s a true win-win.