1999 The Year in Products

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As U.S. consumers' love affair with trucks continued unabated, pickups such as the Ford Ranger, Dodge Ram and GMC Sonoma posted solid sales gains. But two initiatives started to shake the market in 1999: Toyota barged into domestic makers' turf with its full-size Tundra and automakers began creating a new sub-niche of pickups with car-like creature comforts. One such ride is the four-door Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, which combines sedan-like interior space and stereo sound with a shortened pickup bed.


Perhaps no drug created as much excitement this year as Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drug co-marketed by Warner-Lambert Co. and Pfizer. Lipitor, with an estimated $4 billion in sales, became the central prize in a love triangle with Warner-Lambert, Pfizer and American Home Products Corp. AHP and W-L announced a $71 billion merger, only to have Pfizer respond hours later with an $82 billion hostile takeover of W-L. When W-L rebuffed the overture, Pfizer filed several suits, charging in one that the proposed W-L/AHP merger violated the Lipitor joint-marketing agreement. W-L countersued, attempting to break up the co-marketing deal. AHP responded by promising to make its W-L merger deal more attractive if W-L wins full marketing control of Lipitor. Blood pressures are sure to rise as this battle continues.


Scholastic's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," a J.K. Rowling novel, cast a spell on adults and children who became enchanted with the 12-year-old mistreated orphan who suddenly discovers he is a famous and powerful wizard. The tale reached cult status in the U.K. and topped The New York Times and USA Today book lists. Demand caused Scholastic to release the sequel "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" three months early, and quickly followed by "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." To date, 14.6 million copies of the trilogy are in print and four more books are planned. Meanwhile, a movie is imminent as Warner Bros. optioned the film rights to the first two books.


The parentage may be suspect, but there's little doubt Procter & Gamble Co.'s Swiffer electrostatic dust mop and cloths are a hit with consumers.

Swiffer, on track to reach $300 million in global sales its first year, according to P&G, bears a strong resemblance to Kao Corp.'s Quickle Mop, sold in Japan for several years and licensed to S.C. Johnson & Son for distribution in the U.S. and Europe as Pledge Grab-It. But Swiffer beat Grab-It to market by about two weeks and, according to retailers, is beating Pledge with consumers so far, too.


Louder, faster and zappier. This is what "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" brought this summer. And still it wasn't enough for industry analysts who wanted more "Titanic"-like results. The movie hit $427 million in U.S. box-office revenues to date and toy sales could get to $1 billion. That means the movie was nowhere near a failure in the business sense -- just in Hollywood's insatiable appetite for ever-higher expectations.


Priceline.com once was content to sell unsold airline tickets. Now, the name-your-own-price Internet service offers consumers a chance at not only airline tickets, but also hotel rooms, cars, home mortgages and equity loans. Up next: Domination of supermarkets. Priceline is hoping shoppers will go online for everything from Coca-Cola to Kleenex.


That teen-age East Coast witch mock-documentary began just about a year ago with a Web site that was part sales promotion, part fun stuff for friends and family. Directors/Writers Dan Myrick and Ed Sanchez had no idea their movie, "The Blair Witch Project," would become the largest profit-margin theatrical movie in film history -- as well as creating a summer film with a teen-age buzz like no other. The shaky, off-center, nighttime camera technique would also spawn a number of spoofs as well. Distributor Artisan Entertainment is looking to conjure up another brew with a sequel next year.


Despite growing competition, eBay, with more than 7.7 million registered users, continued its reign as the king of online auctions. The site bolstered its marketing by hiring Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, as its first major agency to handle a $15 million account. It also expanded market share through relationships, such as a co-branded site launched in August with America Online. In April it acquired fine arts auction house Butterfield & Butterfield, giving the site a foothold in the premium arts and collectibles offline auction arena.

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