The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: March 18

5. Pepsi Fizzles Out

Who needs to waste all that money advertising in the Super Bowl? Well, looks like Pepsi should have.

On Thursday, Beverage Digest released annual market share data that showed that Pepsi ( PEP) is no longer playing second fiddle to Coke ( KO). Now it's third fiddle, behind Coke and Diet Coke. There was a time that Pepsi sought to seriously challenge Coke. Now, it seems the company is taking the fizz out of its own sales through its own brand of savvy marketing.

Pepsi has been losing ground to Coke for some time, but it seems to have helped the process along in 2010 by turning its back on advertising in the 2010 Super Bowl in favor of a $20 million charity competition, the Refresh Project. According to Advertising Age, it was the first time in 23 years that Pepsi decided the Super Bowl just wasn't for them.

The Refresh Project has gotten some great attention, like a New York Times article profiling how a shadowy figure from India known only as "Mr. Magic" was employed to stuff the ballot box in order to help charities win the Pepsi grants.

Credit Suisse analyst Carlos Laboy said in a research note that he was "worried about the morale implications for PepsiCo's beverage people of having the company's namesake brand and its top beverage brand dropped to a tertiary spot within its category at a time that a tangible sign of brand momentum for the core brands would help." That lack of momentum, said Laboy, has nothing to do with larger trends in the soft drink market, and everything to do with Pepsi. "There is no U.S. beverage category problem, just a Pepsi problem," he wrote.

Pepsi, of course, isn't worried. "I don't think that we'd view this as a blow," a Pepsi spokesperson told Ad Age. "We're looking at our total position. Consumers want a wide range of products for a wide range of occasions. And we're in a great position to satisfy them with that. Today we're fighting a totally different battle on a much bigger battlefield than just colas, though we are completely committed to carbonated soft drinks."

This may be just us, but if the battlefield is getting bigger, we'd rather have our biggest and most experienced unit leading the troops forward, not backward.

4. Aflac's Duck Hunt

Gilbert Gottfried took to Twitter on Monday to make some truly tasteless jokes about the tragedy in Japan, and was quickly relieved of his prized role as the voice of the Aflac ( AFL) duck.

"Japan is really advanced," Gottfried tweeted on Monday afternoon, "They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them." That, apparently, was one of the more tame ones.

"Gilbert's recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac," Aflac Senior Vice President Michael Zuna said on Monday. "Aflac Japan -- and, by extension, Japan itself -- is part of the Aflac family, and there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times."

We're realists around here, so we're not going to argue that Gottfried shouldn't have had his feathers plucked, so to speak. Obviously, his duck brain had not considered that some 75% of Aflac's business comes from Japan.

However, it should be noted that Aflac was, for years, extremely tolerant of all of Gottfried's other arguably tasteless jokes about everything from the 9/11 attacks, religion, sexuality and basically all those taboo subjects that are the go-to subjects of comedians. Really, if you're worried about offending people, it's probably best not to hire a comedian to voice your company mascot. We're sure that's something they're likely to consider as they search for the duck's next voice star.

Maybe the bigger question is why does he need a voice at all? Would a quack be any less annoying than Gottfried's screech?

3. Maddening Coverage for March Madness

Fans of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament and all things March Madness are supposed to be ever-so-grateful this year that the Big Dance's early round matchups are finally spread across a few networks and that, in theory, they won't miss a minute of action.

We're guessing that gratitude faded away like a long-range jumper as soon as the first Big East follower tried to watch No. 1-seeded Pittsburgh take it out on UNC Asheville, only to ask "What's truTV?"

Listen, we get it. CBS ( CBS) had to be getting just a little weary of fans complaining about them switching over to the "wrong" matchup every time they focused on a nailbiter between two mid-majors instead of watching Duke blow out the weakest at-large team some other bloated conference had to offer. They saw what NBC did with its Olympics coverage - spreading the 2008 Summer Games over its NBC, Telemundo, USA, CNBC, MSNBC and Oxygen networks - brought in Time Warner's Turner as a partner and said "why not us?"

In many ways, the 14-year, $11 billion March Madness broadcast deal with the NCAA has been a dream for fans. Workplace slackers no longer have to settle for score updates and - thanks to NCAA "corporate champions" Coca-Cola ( KO), AT&T ( T) and Capital One ( COF) -- can test the office's bandwidth by watching every game in its entirety on the NCAA's March Madness on Demand streaming site for free. Turner and CBS are also giving Apple device owners a free app that streams all games to their gadget of choice.

The one problem comes in the form of an unpopular little sore thumb called truTV. Don't know what it is or where you can find it? That's OK, half of the country still thinks it's Court TV, and spends about as much time watching it as they did watching its predecessor. There was so little call for it that DirecTV ( DTV)is adding it temporarily just for the tournament.

For the blueshirted beancounters who'll insist that having games on truTV is better than nothing, can only boost that channel's profile and can't be any worse than running sports on CNBC or Oxygen, even Turner disagrees with you. TNT, for example, is the third most lucrative network in the cable spectrum and charges cable companies $1 per subscriber per month just for the privilege of having it in the lineup - second only to the more than $2 Fox Sports Net and the bloated $4 ESPN, according to SNL Kagan.

Turner's CNN and TBS networks pull in 50 cents apiece, with CNN and Headline News never even entering the tournament discussion, unlike their discounted counterparts MSNBC (16 cents) and CNBC (29 cents). What about truTV, you ask? Pulling in a paltry six cents per month with each subscription, it wishes it could pull in the 10 cents the Oxygen network commands.

Besides, it's one thing to shift table tennis and archery over to some obscure network in your broadcast family and completely another to put first and second round March Madness games featuring No. 1 seeds like Pittsburgh and Duke into basic-cable purgatory just to say you're showing "all" the games.

Do the true fans a favor and ditch the truTV next year.

2. KV Pharmaceutical Goes Price Hiking

KV Pharmaceutical ( KV.A) won the exclusive rights to produce a shot that help prevent premature births, and decided to celebrate by engaging in some serious price gouging. Thanks to KV, a shot that once cost about $10 will now cost $1,500. Why? Apparently, just because.

According to ABC News, KV's new arbitrary and blatantly greedy pricing strategy puts the cost of treatment over the course of a pregnancy at $30,000.

Astute pharma investors will no doubt point out that KV must have spent a lot of money for research and development of the product, so are justified to set the price. Except, as ABC pointed out, the shot has been around since 1958 and, in fact, we all made the outlay for development.

"All the upfront development of the drug was done by the National Institute of Health," Dr. Kevin Ault, associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, told ABC. "You and I paid for that with our tax dollars, it's not like this pharmaceutical company is trying to recoup its investments in research and development, as is usually the reason for the price of new drugs."

Ultimately, the Food and Drug Administration gets all the thanks for granting KV not only the exclusive rights but the cojones to price gouge expectant mothers reveling in the experience of an at-risk pregnancy. The FDA approval prevents the pharmacies that had been producing the shot from doing so anymore and also prevents doctors from using anything but the KV formulation.

It's always nice to see the government making decisions that are in the best interests of its citizens. And, of course, who would suggest that KV should face any regulation? After all, they're doing the same, we guess.

1. HP Has Head in the Clouds

After weeks of buildup, new HP ( HPQ) CEO Leo Apotheker finally unveiled his long-term company strategy Monday. Unfortunately, he left us less than impressed.

"So mundane," remarked a reader during TheStreet's live blog of the event. "Wow, what a letdown," commented another. Lastly, in the perfect post-event summary: "Zzzzzzz....."

It's not that Apotheker has an easy job. In the wake of a stock price that has fallen more than 20% over the past 12 months due in part to weakness in the company's core PC business, the former SAP ( SAP) chief must find a way to woo wary investors while inspiring a workforce reeling from years of layoffs.

But hey, Leo: Are you sure proselytizing about cloud computing without citing any specific revenue numbers is the way to go? Like a supertanker attempting a U-turn, perhaps you have underestimated the scale of this challenge. Goldman Sachs says this strategy switch will be expensive and detrimental to margins. And rivals like Amazon ( AMZN), IBM ( IBM) and Oracle ( ORCL) have already been cloud-minded -- for years.

We thought you were going to talk about a major restructuring of your software business, which currently makes up only 2% of your business -- a huge opportunity for growth. And what about hardware? You said yourself that HP is No. 1 in servers and No 2. in networking. How about some more detail on how these technologies fit into HP's long-term vision? CloudSystem technology is a start, but how much of this vaunted $143 billion cloud market can we actually expect to end up in HP's coffers?

Then there's WebOS -- you know, the cool operating system that has a place in cool markets like smartphones and tablets? In our gadget-obsessed era, that's likely one of your most potent weapons for finding growth and consumer love, but all you talked about was how you would extend it to PCs and printers. Wait, printers? Sure, we'd all love to be able to print stuff from our smartphones, but maybe you should think about how to juice WebOS in order to effectively compete with Apple ( AAPL), Motorola ( MMI) and Google ( GOOG).

We know that HP's strategic shift is a marathon, not a sprint, but investors are keen to see their new CEO crank up the innovation engine.

Leo, you clearly have a vision for HP. It's just so cloudy, we can't see it.

In light of all this dumbness, we now ask you: Which is this week's dumbest of the dumb stories? Take the poll below to see what TheStreet has to say.

Which is this week's dumbest of the dumb stories?

Pepsi Fizzles Out
Aflac's Duck Hunt
Maddening Coverage for March Madness
KV Pharmaceutical Goes Price Hiking
HP Has Head in the Clouds
This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.

If you liked this article you might like

Watch: PepsiCo Could Be For Sale, Analyst Says

Watch: PepsiCo Could Be For Sale, Analyst Says

Is General Electric Stock Still Good for Your Retirement Account?

Is General Electric Stock Still Good for Your Retirement Account?

You Are Badly Missing the Point on Tesla

You Are Badly Missing the Point on Tesla

Tuesday Investor Blog: Is the Bull Market in Stocks Being Ripped to Shreds?

Tuesday Investor Blog: Is the Bull Market in Stocks Being Ripped to Shreds?

Jim Cramer: Trump's Broadcom Move Really Means 'China, Stay Out!'

Jim Cramer: Trump's Broadcom Move Really Means 'China, Stay Out!'