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Unilever agreed to sell its Brut brand of men's personal-care products in the Americas to Helen of Troy for $55 million. Brut, which does not have an ad agency assignment, had sales of $45 million in North and South America in 2002, according to Unilever. The company declined to comment. Helen of Troy, headquartered in El Paso, Texas, specializes in buying and running orphan personal-care brands, such as Vidal Sassoon, Revlon and Dr. Scholl's. Brut is one of hundreds of brands globally that Unilever is looking to shed under a restructuring plan. Executives familiar with the situation said the company also is looking to sell its Mentadent, Pepsodent, Aim and Close Up oral-care brands; Sunlight dish detergent; Niagara spray starch; and Final Touch fabric softener brands in North America. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao95v

KFC to public: make our spots

Even as KFC is in the middle of an agency shootout for its account, the fast-food chain is asking its consumers to pitch in on ad duties. KFC began a month-long promotion with a contest giving consumers a chance to create their own reality-TV commercials for its Popcorn Chicken. Consumers will try to outdo a KFC ad that broke Sept. 1 that shows fun and unusual ways for people to eat the bite-sized pieces. The introductory spot was earlier created by overseas roster shop WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, Mexico. The winner will receive $10,000 and the ad will appear in prime time Oct. 2. "At KFC, we need a contemporary voice and we need to be in tune with pop culture," said Cheryl Bachelder, president-chief concept officer. To reach out to film schools and ad schools, the chain also created a reality-TV-style ad to promote the contest to run on the College TV Network and select cable stations, including Bravo. The spot broke Aug. 31. Independent public relations shop Edelman, Chicago, handles PR. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao95z

Hyundai, Mitsubishi name new top execs

Both Hyundai Motor America and Mitsubishi Motors North America have new leaders. Finnbar O'Neill, president-CEO of Hyundai, bolted suddenly after 18 years at the automaker and joined Mitsubishi as co-chairman-CEO. When asked about Mitsubishi advertising, Mr. O'Neill said future ads will offer more info about vehicle features and benefits. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles, handles. At Hyundai, Robert Cosmai, VP-national sales, was named interim president. Independent Richards Group, Dallas, won Hyundai's creative account in a review last year. Mitsubishi said its CEO, Pierre Gagnon, who joined in 1997, resigned to pursue other opportunities. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao96g, aao95y

IRI acquisition offer extended

The investment group proposing to acquire market researcher Information Resources Inc. has extended its tender offer until Sept. 15 and said it's considering sweetening the deal after only around 30% of shares were tendered by the Aug. 29 deadline. Gingko Acquisition Corp., a partnership between Symphony Technology Group and Tennenbaum Capital Partners, proposed in June to acquire IRI for $108.4 million in cash plus "contingent value rights" equal to 60% of net proceeds from any judgment or settlement in IRI's 7-year-old lawsuit against rival VNU's ACNielsen Corp. Only 3% of shares had been tendered prior to the original deadline of Aug. 8, which was extended to Aug. 29.

Suzuki unveils `Smart move' tag

American Suzuki Motor Corp. introduces the umbrella tag "You made the smart move" to give its brand a value positioning. The umbrella tag first appears in the $32 million launch of Suzuki's Verona midsize sedan. Dentsu's Colby & Partners, Santa Monica, handles. Verona is the first model from Suzuki's joint venture with GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. in South Korea. But Suzuki dealers said they were told to delay selling the first batch of Veronas because the car has defective seat belts. The passenger-side seat belt problem involved only the first 4,000 cars and will be a fast and simple fix of a bolt and electrical connection, said Tom Carney, marketing director at Suzuki.

FYI...

Energizer holdings is re-entering the U.S. Hispanic market with the appointment of Grupo Gallegos, a two-year-old independent shop based in Los Angeles, for its estimated $5 million account for creative, media and strategic planning. Grupo Gallegos pitched against Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla. and Interpublic's Casanova Pendrill Publicidad, Los Angeles. Energizer's Hispanic account had been dormant. ...The California Lottery commission this month renewed two three-year contracts with Alcone Marketing, Irvine, Calif., which has serviced the account since 1990. One contract is for $23 million for point-of-purchase services, with the option to extend for up to two additional years. A second contract, worth $17 million over three years, covers brochures, posters and register toppers. The lottery also has signed an agreement with Casanova Pendrill Publicidad for Spanish-language advertising, adding 18 months to Casanova's contract with the lottery, originally for $35 million, which began in 1998. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao96i ...Kraft Foods disappointed analysts and investors last week when it provided third-quarter earnings estimates of 45¢ to 47¢, a bit below average expectations of 49¢. In a bid to boost those earnings and improve share trends in the fourth quarter, Kraft provided additional details on how it would spend the $200 million incremental marketing budget it had earlier pledged to put against weak areas including biscuits, coffee, cold cuts and cheese.Kraft said that 70% of the incremental spending, said to begin this month, would be put toward price management programs and the remaining 30% to consumer marketing efforts such as advertising.

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