Renowned PR specialist Michael Levine named the executive producer for an upcoming documentary scourging online media company, Yelp adds his voice in protest to Yelp’s marketing and advertising tactics.
Billion Dollar Bully: New Documentary Exposing YELP
The documentary portrays Yelp – founded in 2004 – as a mob-like organization gleefully pushing retailers, restaurants, and other businesses into paying for positive reviews on its site in the guise of advertising guidance. According to ‘Billion Dollar Bully’ – not paying translates to bad reviews for products and services assessed through posts on Yelp.
Yelp features over 77 million reviews and is frequented by more than 142 million viewers monthly. BDB features horror stories by those business owners who feel trapped in a web of lies on Yelp.
You can watch the trailer on YouTube at youtube/BillionDollarBully. The film has an unspecified budget, and some backers request they remain unnamed. Although, by all reports, they have had no problem with raising capital for the film. The trailer features victims, legal experts, and others supporting the movie’s claims.
Kaylie Milliken, the filmmaker for BDB, says she had heard her husband complain about Yelp over the last couple of years, but didn’t get the idea for the film until listening to her doctor explain her experiences with Yelp. The doctor reported that after turning down Yelp’s salespeople, she noticed positive reviews being moved to the filtered section and negative reviews taking their place.
The good doctor also noticed that several of those negative reviews talked about problems and symptoms that could not be matched to any patient in their practice. The doctor’s experience seems to be mirrored by many businesses.
Also several lawsuits named Yelp for extortion by economic threat, though so far the courts have ruled that Yelp has the editorial right to move around reviews in whatever order they choose. Rulings also say businesses do not have a right to positive reviews under the wording of the statute. So the claims of “extortion by economic threat” do not apply. This may be a case of the Internet moving too quickly for the conservatism of the law to keep up with trends.
BDB may be one of the only ways to fight this problem if it is true, at least for the moment. And we suspect, Milliken and her people felt some satisfaction when Yelp’s stock prices dropped by 4% the day BDB started getting major coverage in the media.
USA Today touted Levine as being “One of Hollywood’s brightest and most respected executives.” Nationally, Levine is regarded as a top media expert voicing his opinions on trending PR issues within the entertainment industry on prominent national radio and television programs.
Levine is an author, some books include Guerilla P.R. 2.0, and Broken Windows – Broken Business. When he started his PR firm in California, he did so in the back room of a hair salon and his first two clients were comedians David Brenner and Joan Rivers. He’s a much sought after speaker around the U.S. and has provided commentary for nearly every national radio and television news show.
Levine Communications Office
Levine Communications Office, Inc. (LCO) was founded in 1983 and earned the reputation for being Hollywood’s PR go-to-guy. Levine’s role as President of LCO and his PR expertise built LCO’s successful representation of 58 Academy Award recipients, 34 Grammy Award winners, and 42 New York Times best-selling authors. They also represent charities, speakers, stunt people, politicians, and corporations. A who’s who list of past and present clients include Charlton Hesston, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Bill Clinton, Nike, Playboy, The Laugh Factory, Pizza Hut, and many more
The company mantra Passion, Focus, Results helped it grow into a leading entertainment Public Relations firms globally. Recently LCO added publishing and digital entertainment divisions allowing the firm to promote clients and sustain branding images in the technical media platforms online today. But their main focus is, and always has been, talent and corporate entertainment. They help clients with media relations, red carpet hosting, materials creation, event production and conference management, strategic communications, ancillary services, and social media.
In 2013, on the firm’s 30th anniversary LCO was sold to David T. Fagan, CEO of Icon Builder Media. Levine remained close to LCO’s operations as a PR consultant until approximately a year later in 2014, Fagan sold the firm back to Levine. Fagan said “a very good deal for everyone was struck that sent LCO back to its original owner. The deal allowed me to take my whole PR team with me, have no Non-Compete, and get more money.”
Just in case you are curious, David Fagan owns Icon Builder Media, and in addition to LCO, was the former CEO of Guerilla Marketing. He’s a guest lecturer at UCLA and has been featured on Fox & Friends, The Washington Post, Forbes, the Wrap, and the Los Angeles Business Journal. He’s the Regional Chairman of Marketing for the Boy Scouts of America and is an international speaker traveling to wild and exotic locations like Australia and Dubai.
Levine’s not the first PR person turned movie-man – Dan Klores of the famed New York PR firm DKC PR is also a movie producer.
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