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After falling behind resurgent rivals with two failed post-Dave Thomas advertising campaigns, Wendy's International will return to its square-hamburger roots, boost its marketing budget and make its first foray into Internet advertising. "It's no secret we've faced some challenging times at Wendy's," said Ian Rowden, exec VP-chief marketing officer. Since the company's founder, Dave Thomas, died in 2002, the burger chain and its agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson Worldwide, has struggled to find a voice for its ad messages that was as effective as his. Mr. Thomas starred in more than 800 commercials over 13 years. Wendy's tried using an "unofficial" spokesman, "Mr. Wendy," a hapless burger evangelist, but dumped the widely criticized campaign after only eight months. The chain unveiled its "Do What Tastes Right" campaign last week .To reach young adults, Wendy's created a character called Smart Square for ads onlate-night TV and on the Internet (goodtobesquare.com). Smart Square stars in a 60-second video trailer to introduce the character and round "bead-icons" or "beadies," which serve as metaphors for round burgers. AdAge.com QwikFIND aaq58e

Dodge reintroduces muscle-car Charger

Chrysler Group will bring back its Dodge Charger muscle car with a $60 million campaign that uses the theme "Unleash." The integrated three-month campaign kicks off June 1. The Charger is the first Dodge aimed at getting the brand "back into the car business," Darryl Jackson, VP-Dodge marketing, said. The car has been absent from the automaker's vehicle lineup since 1988 as it has focused on selling its Dodge trucks. The peak sales year for the Charger was 1973, when it sold 119,318 units. Omnicom Group's BBDO Detroit in Troy, Mich., is the brand's main ad agency. GlobalHue, Southfield, handles the Hispanic and African-American accounts and the Bloomfield Hills office of Organic handles online. AdAge.com QwikFIND aaq57v

Axe releases adver-game that hones pick up skills

Unilever is rolling out a free online game, Mojo Master, that is the centerpiece of the campaign to introduce Axe scent Unlimited this summer. The game-announced at the E3 Gaming Expo in Los Angeles last week-is a console-quality game designed to perfect the seduction skills of Axe's main target, men 17 to 24. The gamer boosts his mojo when he uses an Axe Unlimited product during game play. Available on June 20, the game is an attempt to keep Axe in the lead market-share position for male deodorants. TV, print and online media support the effort. The marketing budget is about $5 million.

Music video network for cellphones to launch

In an effort to prime the pump for its "third-screen" media business, SmartVideo Technologies of Atlanta will launch a free music video channel for cellphones next month. Called the Digital Music Video Network, the service is designed to ultimately sell $12.95-a-month subscriptions to its full offering of video content that ranges from ABC News to professional wrestling to the Gospel Music Television. "It's mobile video with training wheels," said Richard E. Bennett, president-CEO of SmartVideo. "People don't yet understand video on cellphones-now they can get it in a risk-free way." SmartVideo, since its launch in January, has had about 16,000 trial users, with only 1,100 currently active. The company has just 900 paying subscribers, with 750 of those described as "active." In exchange for the free content, consumers will be required to view the streaming-video programming, which will have 15-second ads between videos as well as some ad overlays displayed during the clip. AdAge.com QwikFIND aaq57r

FCC re-examines media consolidation

As cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable prepare to carve up Adelphia Communications, the Federal Communications Commission is focusing again on the contentious issue of media consolidation. Last week, the FCC reopened discussion into rules restricting the size of cable companies four years after an appellate court struck down the government's regulatory scheme. The FCC asked industry executives, detractors and the public for comments as to when concentration of media affects the ability of program providers and networks to offer diverse programming. Under the previous rules, a cable company was barred from having more than 30% of the nation's cable subscribers. The Adelphia deal gives Comcast access to about 1.8 million subscribers and Time Warner will likely add 3.5 million. Comcast will end up with 23.3 million subscribers and Time Warner with 14.4 million. According to Nielsen Media Research, quoted by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, as of November 2004, there are more than 75 million cable subscribers. AdAge.com QwikFIND aaq57n

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