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Sony close to reupping account with McCann

[new york] Sony Pictures Entertainment is close to reupping its media agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, to continue handling its $250 million account. Though a final decision has yet to make it official, media executives say it is doubtful Sony would switch agencies so close to the start of the upfront. Bcom3 Group's Starcom Worldwide, Chicago, was a late entry into the Sony sweepstakes-which slowed down the decision process. WPP Group's Media Edge and Zenith Media, New York, co-owned by Publicis Groupe and Cordiant Communications Group, are also in the review.

FastBridge gets three online assignments

[new york] FastBridge, the interactive division of Interpublic's Initiative Media Worldwide, has been given three new online advertising assignments totaling about $10 million in new billings. According to FastBridge CEO Lynn Bolger, the shop picked up online advertising duties for E-Trade, which previously implemented online media buys in-house; Maybelline, whose online placement was handled by sibling Interpublic shop Gotham; and Disney Channel, previously at Avenue A. All three clients are offline and broadcast customers of Initiative Media.

P&G discusses deal with ABC Unlimited unit

[cincinnati] Procter & Gamble Co. is in talks with Walt Disney Co.'s ABC Unlimited, ABC's integrated ad sales unit, about a multi-million-dollar pact that likely would include ABC, ESPN, A&E and E! Entertainment Television, Electronic Media, a sibling of Advertising Age, reports today.

Court rejects Heinz purchase of Beech-Nut

[washington] The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit, siding with the Federal Trade Commission, rejected H.J. Heinz Co.'s $185 million acquisition of Milnot Holding Corp.'s Beech-Nut baby food brand, prompting the companies to immediately terminate their deal. Heinz said it would re-evaluate its U.S. baby food strategy because of the decision, but would continue to be a player in the rest of the world. The decision, which overturned a lower court ruling, was a major victory for the FTC, which sued to block the deal, arguing that combining Heinz and Beech-Nut (giving Heinz 32.8% of the baby food industry, compared with industry leader's Gerber Products Co.'s 65%) would reduce competition. The case was widely viewed as an important test case of the FTC's antitrust policies. Heinz contended that because most stores carry Gerber and one other baby food brand, a combination would strengthen rather than lessen category competition. Interpublic's Suissa Miller, Los Angeles, handles Beech-Nut while Heinz has no agency of record for its baby foods.

Knight Ridder to make job cuts

[san jose, calif.] Citing an advertising "recession" and increased newsprint costs, Knight Ridder's Chairman-CEO Tony Ridder said the company would cut jobs in "most newspapers," largely through buyouts and early retirements, across its 32-daily portfolio depending on local conditions. The extent of the cuts were unspecified. Knight Ridder's ad revenues dropped 6% in March and are expected to drop more sharply in April.

Video-game makers prepare holiday efforts

[san francisco] Video-game manufacturers gearing up to do battle this holiday season are lining up advertising agencies, with Sega of America signing up Leagas Delaney as agency for games in its 2002 sports line. True North's FCB Worldwide, New York, is handling Sega's new Sonic the Hedgehog games. Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco and Playa del Rey, Calif., meanwhile, is preparing to launch new work for PlayStation 2, while Interpublic's McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, readies Microsoft's Xbox launch. In a separate review, Boot Creek Ski Holdings, Inc., named Leagas Delaney agency of record for its Northstar-at-Tahoe resort.

Leapnet proposes reverse stock split

[chicago] Leapnet has presented to its shareholders a proposal for a reverse split of its stock to maintain the price above $1 per share and preserve its listing in the Nasdaq market. In a proxy mailed to its shareholders, the company proposes trading 29,205,126 shares of common stock outstanding for new stock on a two-for-one basis. Shares in the online marketing and communications company have been trading under $1 since late 2000 and closed at $0.50 April 27. Shareholders will vote on the proposal at the annual meeting scheduled June 5.

MediaCom creates holding company network

[new york] MediaCom Worldwide, the media buying and planning unit of Grey Global Group, is creating a worldwide holding company for its MediaCom network. Alec Gerster and Alexander Schmidt-Vogel, currently chairman and vice chairman of the MediaCom network, will be CEO and chief operating officer, respectively, of MediaCom Worldwide Inc., which will combine various acquisitions of the media company, including the Media Business Group, London, into a single entity. The management board of the new unit will be composed of chief executives of MediaCom's global offices.

Unilever set to unveil compensation plan

[london] Unilever is expected to announce a new agency compensation system based on brand performance. The system, likely to vary by country and be phased in over coming months, replaces one that combined media commissions of 11.5% to 13% with performance-based incentives. The move comes after Unilever announced April 27 it will reduce 8,000 jobs, in addition to the 25,000 originally planned, as part of the consolidation of its Bestfoods acquisition. The consolidation means an unspecified reduction in the marketing staff, affecting both former Bestfoods and Unilever employees, in Unilever's New Jersey headquarters.


Make-A-Wish Foundation today breaks a $1.8 million, six-month campaign on elevator advertising network Captivate Network, which donated media time to the foundation. The ads, from MARC Advertising, Pittsburgh, will appear on Captivate's 2,500 elevator screens in office buildings across the country. ... DDB Worldwide swept both the print and TV grand prix at the Iberian-American Advertising Festival (FIAP) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 27. Spain's Tandem DDB, Madrid, won the top TV award with a car commercial for Volkswagen's Audi. The print grand prix went to Brazil's DM9 DDB, Sao Paulo, for an ad for Clorox's SBP insecticide. ... Mail Boxes Etc. has made the first cut for semifinalists for its $15 million to $20 million review to 12 agencies, mostly concentrated on the West Coast, confirmed consultant Rojek Cutcher Marketing Group. ... Weider Nutrition International, Salt Lake City, to Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, Calif., for its $13 million account for nutritional products including Move Free arthritis remedy, Tiger's Milk energy bar and Schiff vitamins. Karlen, New York, was the previous agency. ... Jim Riswold, who created most of Wieden & Kennedy's famous work for the Nike brand, particularly ads featuring athlete Michael Jordan, has taken a medical leave from the agency. Mr. Riswold, 43, was diagnosed with leukemia, agency officials said, but is expected to return to work this fall after treatment. Dan Wieden, president and chief creative officer, is expected to partner with Hal Curtis on the lead creative team on the account in the interim. ... Agencies around the country have received request for proposals from West Hollywood, Calif., review consultant Select Resources International for an anticipated $50 million account from an undisclosed consortium group looking for a generic package goods advertising campaign along the lines of Omnicom's Goodby Silverstein & Partners' "Got Milk" campaign. Select declined to take calls seeking comment. ... Hallmark Cards selected Interpublic's McCann Relationship Marketing, New York, to handle its Hallmark Gold Crown loyalty program. Carlson Marketing Group, Minneapolis, which previously handled the account, retains responsibility for the program's operations including Web site management and programming. ... Subaru of America will break in mid-May spots from True North's Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas, for its 2002 Subaru Forester. This round of work for the "What are you made of?" effort again taps tennis legend Martina Navratilova and pro snowboarder Victoria Jealouse, along with world champion mountain biker Tara Llanes. ...Bcom3's Leo Burnett USA is closing the Boston office of its Leo Burnett Technology Group and merging its remaining operations into the company's Chicago headquarters May 4. ... The Writers Guild of America says it will stop work May 1 if it can't get a new and improved contract. Among other things, the WGA wants residuals for syndication airings of TV, something some actors and producers already receive. On June 30, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio & Television Artists is set to walk as well.... Havas Snyder Communications and Verizon Select Services agreed to settle charges from Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth that they illegally switched consumers' long-distance services without permission. ... Carnival Corp.'s Cunard Line, Miami, is reviewing its $4 million advertising account that was previously at Tinsley Advertising, Miami. Matchbox, New York, is handling the review.

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