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Beckers' breakup may hurt ad racket

So ends the love match of Boris and Barbara Becker, and possibly also some of the courtship by marketers for product endorsements. AOL Germany and Mercedes-Benz have ad contracts with tennis ace Boris that observers surmise could be on the rocks, along with his marriage. Coca-Cola Germany's relationship with American former model Barbara has been thrown into confusion, too. AOL is playing down the divorce. Grey Worldwide, Hamburg, says its next AOL commercial featuring Boris isn't scheduled for another three months. The tagline he made famous for AOL--"I am in"--is now the subject of jokes in Germany. The tagline and the marketing of Boris' attributes as a family man appear to be in jeopardy. At Coca-Cola, Barbara appears in a spot placing bottles of caffeine-free Coke into one of her husband's large tennis trophies. The ad has yet to air. "We are still examining the matter," says Coke spokeswoman Christina Jacobs. The spot was created by Hamburg shop Springer & Jacoby, which also handled Mercedes advertising featuring Boris.

Kmart has holiday flurry of business

New Kmart Corp. Chief Marketing Officer Brent Willis received his best holiday gift when same-store sales figures for December were released. For the first time in 10 years, Kmart beat Wal-Mart Stores in the category, albeit with a paltry 0.7% same-store sales increase vs. 0.3% for Wal-Mart. Willis acknowledges he may not be able to slay the rival discounter, but notes, "We got 'em once and maybe they're not as invincible" as some retailers might fear. Kmart kept stores open for 86 hours prior to Christmas, a move touted not only in ads from Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, but also featured by the news media in their holiday roundup stories.

Marketing jobs idle at carmakers

A couple of carmaker ad experts say they were contacted by a headhunter shopping Subaru of America's VP-marketing job. Bill Cyphers, with Subaru since 1984, has held the job since June 1999. His boss, Fred Adcock, exec VP-sales and marketing, says there's no plan to replace Bill or add a new marketing post. Adcock expounds: "We'll comment when it's appropriate." In other car rumblings:

* No word yet on who will succeed Liz Vanzura as Volkswagen of America ad director. Spokesman Steve Keyes says brand mgr. Karen Schwartz is filling the post for now. Vanzura left suddenly over the holidays, some say to stay home with her two young children. Others speculate she's returning to General Motors Corp. as ad director for Hummer. But John Middlebrook, her ex-boss at Pontiac and now VP-gen. mgr. of vehicle brand marketing at GM, says that's not in the works, even though "we'd love to have her back."

* Doner, Southfield, Mich., is said to be talking with Mike Belitsos for the top creative post on its Mazda account. Belitsos, former exec VP-exec CD at Y&R Advertising, San Francisco, on Lincoln Mercury, left the biz a few months ago to return to teaching. Neither he nor Doner returned calls.

* Budgets being discussed for BMW's Mini launch are just that-mini. Agency execs were told pre-launch budget for 2001 was a mere $4 million to $5 million, jumping to $25 million for 2002, but considerably lower than the $40 million originally bandied about. Finalists include Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami; Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York; Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners, New York; and Suissa Miller, Los Angeles.

Got an Adage? Tell Dan by phone, (312) 280-3109; fax, (312) 649-5331; or e-mail, dlippe @crain.com.

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