Procter & Gamble Co. apologized to Unilever for a covert operation to gain competitive intelligence in the hair-care category. The operation against P&G's hair-care rival included "Dumpster diving" in a trash receptacle outside at least one Unilever marketing office. P&G shut down the $3 million operation and brought it to Unilever's attention after P&G Chairman John Pepper discovered it last April. Three employees involved in the endeavor were dismissed. The two marketing giants reached a settlement on the matter in September.
As it turned out, the only thing really "extreme" about the Xtreme Football League was its extremely short life span. The new league, which took the World Wrestling Federation game plan of sex-and-violence theatrics from the mat to the gridiron, saw its ratings on General Electric Co.'s NBC tumble by 55% in its second week. By its seventh week, the XFL garnered what was said to be the worst prime-time rating ever for a show on the Big 3 networks. American Honda Motor Co. had left as a sponsor, and it became clear that the XFL's first season would become its last. "Had we had more time, we may have been able to do things differently," Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, said at the news conference announcing the expiring of the XFL. Advertisers weren't in the mood to be that patient. The XFL had lost an estimated $70 million.
A painting that parodies Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Sup-per"-featuring ad icons instead of Jesus and his Apostles-drew complaints in suburban Chicago. "The Last Pancake Breakfast" was displayed at the Chicago Athenaeum in Schaumburg, Ill. The painting was part of Chicago artist Dick Dentzner's 13-piece "Corporate Sacrilege" collection. In the painting, Mrs. Butterworth has Jesus' spot at the table. She's flanked by characters including Aunt Jemima, the Quaker Oats Quakerman and Kellogg Co.'s Toucan Sam. Mr. Dentzner said his goal is to go after advertising, not religion. Another painting in his series features the Pillsbury Doughboy on a cross.
After a lonely vigil that lasted 34 years, the Maytag repairman got a buff apprentice in 2001. Maytag Co. and Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, introduced the next generation in washing-machine maintenance man via a commercial that broke Jan. 15. Explained Mark Buss, VP-strategic marketing at Maytag Appliances: "Whereas Ol' Lonely is a beloved icon that has long stood for Maytag's dependability, the apprentice character and his relentless pursuit of perfection will come to embody innovative Maytag solutions."
big blue guerRilla
An IBM guerrilla marketing effort ran afoul of officials in several large cities. Images of hearts, peace signs and penguins were spray-painted on sidewalks in Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco to promote a new Linux operating system. While Big Blue and WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, considered the images to be advertising, city officials labeled them graffiti. IBM said the drawings were supposed to have been made with biodegradable chalk, and it halted the campaign. The computer giant also agreed to pay the city of San Francisco more than $100,000 and Chicago got another $18,000.
honoring crazy horse
SBC Holdings apologized for its use of the Crazy Horse name as a malt liquor brand the old-fashioned way-by offering blankets, horses and tobacco to the Crazy Horse estate. Native Americans had sued the brewer for using the name of the 19th century Oglala Sioux hero, who defeated George Custer at Little Big Horn. No money was included in the settlement with the Lakota Sioux.
heat's on in chilly economy
By midyear, the marketing and communications community was feeling the effects of the downturn:
* The heat was on Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide-literally-after job cuts were announced at its San Francisco office. Police arson investigators said "somebody was mad" when a small fire broke out May 2 in a paper-filled wooden file cabinet at the agency. The incident occurred in a conference room on the same day that FCB announced a "reorganization" that included cutting 45 staffers. The tiny fire caused no injuries or significant damage. The police department ended up stuffing the case into its inactive file.
* Dow Jones & Co., as a cost-saving measure, decided to stop providing plants in its offices in downtown Manhattan and in South Brunswick, N.J. Annual savings: $40,000-plus. The New York office plants were to be removed in July, on Friday the 13th.
Do we really need...
* Collectible Playboy Playmate dolls? The first such doll-a 16-inch, "anatomically correct" replica of 1997 Playmate of the Year Victoria Silvstedt- debuted late in November. Stronghold Group, which is distributing the doll, says it's the first in a long line of limited-edition, licensed Playboy fashion dolls, priced at about $49.99.
* Wonderbum? Du Pont Lycra unveiled the gluteal equivalent of the Wonderbra, saying that Wonderbum promises "a perfectly peachy, pert bottom." The product is expected to hit stores late in 2002.
* A Dracula theme park? A consortium of German companies plans to break ground next spring on a $30 million park in Sighisoara, Romania, the Transylvanian hometown of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for the Dracula character. The first part of the park is expected to open in 2003.
* Parkay Fun Squeeze? Con-Agra Foods introduced the kid-targeted blue and pink squeeze margarine this fall.
* The Spammobile? Hormel Foods Corp. is touring the U.S. with its first-ever marketing vehicle dedicated to the canned meat product. The vehicle, shaped like a Spam can, doles out free Spamburgers. Hormel also opened the Spam Museum in September. But don't turn up your nose at the marketing shelf life of Spam. Hormel reported a 13% rise in fourth-quarter earnings and attributed it partly to strong sales of Spam.
* And regarding mystery meat from the sky, what about the Hot Dog Launcher? Action Sports America, Philadelphia, uses the device to fire wieners 200 feet in the air toward fans in promotions at minor league baseball games.
Elsewhere in the global village
* The Marlboro Man is a lady in Germany. Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett Co. in March broke a commercial titled "Lady Mustang" for Philip Morris Cos.' Marlboro. At the end of the spot, which debuted in 4,000 German movie theaters, a close-up reveals the horse wrangler to be a blond woman. Women make up nearly half of Marlboro smokers today, said a Philip Morris Deutschland spokeswoman.
* Some residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg were taken aback by meowing posters for Mars' Whiskas pet food. "We are quite surprised by crowds of people that gather around our posters. We even had to put a special notice that there are no live cats inside," said Mikhail Efimov, VP of outdoor ad agency Rosvero. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide and Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles created the campaign.
* India Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj declared a commercial for Hindustan Unilever's Close Up toothpaste unsuitable for public, and particularly family, consumption. The ad, created by Hindustan Thompson Associates, Bombay, showed a condemned prisoner kissing an attractive policewoman, fulfilling his last request before execution.
* A Milan hospital was the pilot project for what was claimed to be the first hospital-based ad campaign in Italy, using posters to reach visitors and employees. "What caught our attention was the fact that 98% of the people who visit a hospital are healthy," said a spokeswoman at Cordiant Com-munications Group's Bates Healthworld, Rome. "They are there to visit a sick friend or to have routine tests done, or they work there. So we thought: Why not advertise to those people?"
* MTV apologized to two 14-year-old girls who were sprayed with excrement by performers during the taping of a program called "Dude, This Sucks." The teen-agers sued MTV, saying they were invited to stand near the stage during taping of the show and were given no warning that two men calling themselves the "Shower Rangers" would defecate on stage. They said the incident happened during an MTV weekend festival called "Snowed In." The Viacom-owned cable network apologized and said the footage would never be telecast.
* As if movie ads weren't hyperbolic enough in praising films, some Sony executives took it a step further by fabricating accolades, and the movie critic himself, in ads for "A Knight's Tale" and "The Animal." Sony Pictures suspended two ad executives who were apparently involved in the fiasco.
* Jodee Berry is suing the owners of the Hooters restaurant in Panama City Beach, Fla., where she worked as a waitress, charging that when she won a beer sales contest she wasn't given the promised Toyota car but instead a "toy Yoda," as in the wise, but undrivable, "Star Wars" character. Ms. Berry is suing the restaurant's owner, Gulf Coast Wings, for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.
sept. 11 repercussions
Regardless of the pronouncement by Vanity Fair Editor in Chief Graydon Carter that 2001 marked the "end of irony," there was certainly no end of folly fueled by the Sept. 11 tragedy:
* Alert the CIA! Bert, the Sesame Street Muppet, is a pal of Osama bin Laden. A placard carried at an anti-U.S. protest in Bangladesh featured a collage of images of Mr. bin Laden, including one small picture showing him beside a human-size figure of the yellow Sesame Street character. The sign was captured on film by several news photographers, and it was surmised that the original image of Osama & Bert had appeared on a tongue-in-cheek "evil Bert" Web site and had been downloaded to add to the collage.
* Barry Diller's Studios USA laid to rest plans by seance savant John Edward to pass along messages from people killed in the World Trade Center to their grieving relatives. The company had considered such a November sweeps stunt for the TV psychic's syndicated "Crossing Over With John Edward," but advertisers and station managers recoiled at the idea.
* Also in the world of syndication, Columbia TriStar Television Distribution pulled the "Seinfeld" episode in which George's fiancee, Susan, dies from licking poisoned envelopes. And Fox yanked an episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer is seen at the World Trade Center.
* Ford Motor Co.-owned Volvo inadvertently drove right into the anthrax scare when it sent out 2,000 direct mail pieces containing suspicious-looking powder. The Swedish carmaker was forced to suspend the German campaign, created by Munich agency DCM Dialog Creation, after Volvo owners complained. The suspicious contents consisted of a 4-gram sachet of vitamin powder.
* Bertelsmann's Gruner & Jahr pulled an ad backing its German magazine Stern that was intended to make a humorous reference to Osama bin Laden bombing a U.S. embassy. Leagas Delaney, Hamburg, obviously created the ad before the Sept. 11 attacks, and the ad had appeared earlier in other Gruner & Jahr titles, as well as other magazines. The ad featured a photograph of a van parked outside a building marked "Embassy of the United States." Superimposed on the picture were three speech bubbles, which played on the German word "bin," which means "I'm." One read "Bin Laden."