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7

The Yodeler Who Sued Yahoo

Wylie Gustafson grew up in Montana and practiced the art of yodeling. He became so good at it that he made a decent living in the late 1980s and early '90s doing voiceovers for commercial ads in Los Angeles. He had already moved to a farm in Washington when he got a call from an ad agency to do a yodel for a small startup named Yahoo.

Founded two year earlier as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web,” Yahoo was one of the “pioneers of the early internet era.” At the time, they had just had their initial public offering (IPO): Their shares were up 270%, and they were basking in the success of the tech boom.

Gustafson was told the company wanted to run a regional TV ad, and was asked to come up with a yodel — “something light, funny, and ear-catching.”

For national campaigns, Gustafson received union-scale pay, which meant lucrative residuals every time a commercial aired. But since the Yahoo spot was supposedly a regional commercial, he accepted a one-time payment of $590.38.

“I went down to a studio in LA, and in 10 minutes I knocked out probably 20 to 30 different 3-second yodels,” he says. “Then, I went home and forgot all about it.”
Gustafson at Yahoo (via Yahoo)

Two years later, on January 31, 1999, Gustafson was watching the Super Bowl when — lo and behold — he heard his yodel in a national Yahoo ad.

Gustafson was not happy that what he was told was a regional ad was now nationwide... and he learned that Yahoo was using it for the company's signature on everything from the internet to a company-branded bottle opener. Unable to get satisfaction fro the company, Gustafson sued Yahoo for $5 million. Read the story of Wylie Gustafson, the Yahoo yodeler, at the Hustle. -via Metafilter, where you'll find more links about yodelers.   

(Image credit: Yodelking59425)


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