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General Motors Corp.'s Chairman-CEO Rick Wagoner shook up the top ranks of its North American unit last week, saying he's taking the reins. "Given the challenges we face in North America, it makes sense for me to assume control of [GM's] day-to-day operations and shorten the lines of communication and decision-making," he said last week. The move comes just weeks after GM said it would tally some $850 million in first-quarter losses in the region, where it has also lost market share. In an effort to boost sales, GM today brings back the multibrand "Hot Button" promotion it tried in early 2004. The latest incarnation starts April 11 and will run through May 31. While the first Hot Button push generated nearly 2 million visits to dealer showrooms, the auto giant admitted the blitz didn't do much to lift sales. Multimedia ads from Interpublic's McCann Erickson, Troy, Mich., will support it. GM will give away 1,000 vehicles. Consumers must visit a dealership for any of GM's eight brands and push the OnStar button in designated vehicles to discover if they're a winner. Product-development czar Bob Lutz, corporate vice chairman, and Gary Cowger, group VP, relinquished their North American roles and titles as vice chairman and president, respectively. They will take on full-time global roles. QwikFIND aaq45v

Avon youth unit Future loses key execs to Pink

The future of Avon Future is in question. The Avon Products unit established primarily to launch a younger-skewing set of buyers and sellers through its Mark brand is without a president, a marketing head and a director of public relations. Doug Zarkin, executive director-consumer marketing and creative services, and Jennifer Wolinetz, executive director -PR, special events, have followed their former boss, Avon Future President Deborah Fine, to Limited Brand's Pink division, a Victoria's Secret lingerie brand geared to the 18-to-22-year-old set. An Avon spokeswoman said the unit, still staffed by a group of more than 35 employees, is up and running and plans to replace Ms. Fine.

Sears, Kmart puts squeeze on agencies

Sears Holding Corp., created by the merger of Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Kmart Holding Corp., last week started putting the squeeze on its agencies. The retailer cut the fees it pays to WPP Group's Y&R and Ogilvy & Mather, both of which are based in Chicago and incumbents on Sears, executives said. In response, Y&R cut freelancers and a handful of employees. Last year, Sears spent about $640 million on advertising, split between Y&R and Ogilvy. Kmart spent about $175 million; its agency was Grey Global Group's G2, New York, now part of WPP. The agencies and marketer declined to comment. QwikFIND aaq46f

Crow, `Parents' editor and former G&J CEO, dies

Elizabeth Crow, whose career in magazines spanned editing jobs at New York, Mademoiselle, Parents and who served as CEO of Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing, died April 4. She was 58 and had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Since March of 2004, Ms. Crow was VP-editorial director of Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes the ad-free Consumer Reports. Ms. Crow began in magazines as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker, and then moved on to New York, where she elevated the service section. "She started out as a secretary and wound up running that area as her own fief," said Byron Dobell, an editorial director of New York at that time. Ms. Crow eventually became New York's executive editor. In 1978 she became editor of Parents, and won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence. In 1988, she became CEO of G&J. In 1993, she went to Conde Nast Publications-which had previously offered her the top slot at Self-to be editor in chief of Mademoiselle. In recent years, she served as editorial director of Primedia's consumer magazines and VP -editorial director of Rodale's Women's Health Group. QwikFIND aaq46o


Computer Associates hired Donald R. Friedman, 58, who spent 30 years at IBM, including a stint as VP-marketing and strategy for the server group, as chief marketing officer. Ad QwikFIND aaq45w...Vanguard Car Rental USA, which operates Alamo Rent a Car and National Care Rental, named Jerry Dow, United Airlines' advertising chief, as its new chief marketing officer. Ad QwikFIND aaq46g ...Sally Preston, VP- publisher of Rodale's Organic Style, becomes a senior VP-publisher Martha Stewart Living. She replaces Suzanne Sobel, awho resigned suddenly March 1, mere days before company founder Martha Stewart was released from federal prison. QwikFIND aaq46r

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