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Merrill Lynch, HSBC open $50 mil agency search

[london] Merrill Lynch & Co. and HSBC Holdings are searching for an agency to handle a global campaign valued at upwards of $50 million for their online banking and investment services company formed in April, tentatively named Merrill Lynch HSBC. Spending could top $100 million within three years, a spokesman said. The financial institutions have narrowed their search to three agencies: J. Walter Thompson Co., Merrill Lynch's agency of record; Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, HSBC's agency of record; and Bates Worldwide.

Super Bowl prices start at $2.5 mil

[new york] CBS has started pricing next year's Super Bowl commercials, and media executives say the starting price is $2.5 million for a 30-second spot. This was significantly higher than ABC's initial pricing for Super Bowl XXXIV, which started at $1.8 million, and then drifted up to an average $2.2 million. Some 18 dot-coms fueled the wild pricing activity, and some even paid up to $3 million.

Microsoft ponders name for strategy

[redmond, wash.] Microsoft Corp. is weighing no less than six monikers for its Next Generation Windows Services business strategy, which has been referred to as "NGWS" since last year. The initiative, which executives will outline in detail on June 22, is expected to create a new brand for the software giant. Microsoft agency McCann-Erickson/A&L, San Francisco and New York, leads the naming and brand strategy effort, along with Interbrand, New York. Microsoft also has begun approaching agencies and brand consultancies, including McCann and its FutureBrand unit, for an assignment that will overhaul the company's entire brand architecture, according to people familiar with the matter.

McDonald's studies dot-com options

[oak brook, ill.] McDonald's Corp. is quietly exploring additional dot-com investments following initial e-commerce disappointments. McDonald's March investment in is considered by some observers to be a token entry into the new economy, and company insiders say alliance talks with Walt Disney Co. about have stalled. Now McDonald's is shopping deals with several e-commerce companies including Ariba, Commerce One and Accel-KKR Internet Co., a joint venture fund of venture capital company Accel Partners and buyout company Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. McDonald's, Ariba and Commerce One wouldn't comment. KKR and Accel Partners didn't return calls (see full story at

Bcom3, Dentsu form joint venture

[tokyo] Chicago-based Bcom3 Group, the holding company for the Leo Burnett Co. and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles networks, will form a new joint venture company in Japan, effective Oct. 1. The Tokyo-based Beacon will combine the existing operations of Burnett and D'Arcy in Japan, with an infusion of talent and business from Dentsu. Dentsu will take significant equity in the new venture, but the exact terms are still being negotiated. Beacon is expected to bill $430 million, making it the second-largest international agency operating in Japan, according to Advertising Age.

Court TV, Odyssey see upfront gains

[new york] Newly revived Court TV and Odyssey Channel are seeing booming ad sales business, as the second-tier cable networks near completion of upfront activities. Court TV, for example, is up 300% in revenue, according to Gig Barton, senior VP-advertising sales. Returning advertisers paid price increases ranging from 11% to 14%. Executives say Court TV pulled in around $50 million. Odyssey has seen a 200% overall revenue increase. Media executives say Odyssey has now hit $20 million in annual ad sales.

Survey finds few recall Web drug ads

[new york] Even as the Web increasingly becomes a healthcare information destination, Time Inc.'s third annual direct-to-consumer effectiveness study suggests it may not be a boon for drug marketers. The study, scheduled to be released June 15, shows 23% of people (1,000 were surveyed) use the Internet as a primary source of healthcare information, but only 1% recall seeing an ad for a prescription drug on the Web. Time Inc. operates a slew of magazines that benefit from the rise of DTC print advertising.

Apple's `Think different' captures the Grand Effie

[new york] Apple Computer's "Think different" campaign by TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., won the Grand Effie at the June 7 show for the awards presented by the New York chapter of the American Marketing Association. Sibling Omnicom shops BBDO Worldwide, New York, and DDB Worldwide, Chicago, tied for the most Gold Effies with three each.

GOP ad campaign highlights Bush's Social Security plan

[washington] The Republican National Committee kicked off its ad campaign with ads appearing this week in 15 states. A spot from National Media's Alex Castellanos was expected to highlight presidential candidate George W. Bush's plans for Social Security. The Democratic National Committee kicked off a $25 million campaign last week with an ad about Medicare prescription drug coverage, produced by the same ad team that is doing the Gore campaign. The ad features Vice President Al Gore.


DirecTV has narrowed the review for its anticipated $150 million advertising account to BBDO/West, San Francisco and Los Angeles; GMO/Hill, Holliday, San Francisco; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles; and Deutsch, Playa del Rey, Calif. Incumbent Campbell-Ewald, Los Angeles, has dropped out. Select Resources International, West Hollywood, Calif., is the incumbent. . . . The acquisition of Competitive Media Reporting by Taylor Nelson Sofres, an international market information service company based in London, was finalized last week. The sale price was $88 million. . . . Best Buy Co.'s launch of, its new online store, could come as soon as this week, according to people close to the company. A highly integrated ad and marketing effort for the bricks-and-mortar stores and the online venue is expected to roll out shortly after the launch via DDB Worldwide, and its online unit DDB Digital, both New York. . . . The Industry Standard will spin off a monthly title later this summer. Individual issues of Grok will cover specific sectors of the Internet economy; the debut issue, focusing on entertainment, hits newsstands Aug. 8.

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