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[San Francisco] Video-game maker Electronic Arts is parting with its agency of 10 years and is about to move its $70 million account to independent Wieden & Kennedy, executives familiar with the situation said. Electronic Arts and its shop, See: Advertising, have been unable to reach agreement on a new contract, according to Keith McVaney, president at the independent San Francisco shop. Mr. McVaney said See will continue to work with EA through March. Electronic Arts spokeswoman Trudy Muller said Electronic Arts has had "a great relationship with See," but that EA will announce in the next couple of weeks "a move to an agency better able to address the diverse needs of our global games and sports business." She declined to name the shop that will take over the account. A Wieden spokeswoman did not return calls by press time.

Army delays pick six months; Burnett stays

[Washington] The U.S. Army delayed for six months awarding its $200 million a year Army contract, extending Leo Burnett USA's advertising contract for six months. The Army said only the delay "was in the best interest of the U.S. Army" but didn't otherwise explain the reasons for the delay. It also didn't say whether it would seek new bids. The Army contract is one of the largest U.S. government ad contracts. Publicis Groupe's Burnett was competing with Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, WPP Group shops Y&R and Ogilvy & Mather, Omnicom's BBDO, and Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide.

Bureau to scrutinize alcohol advertising

[Washington] The Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau plans to increase its scrutiny of alcohol advertising and said in an industry circular said it will be "pro-active" in contacting alcohol marketers about their advertising. The circular cites "the high volume of new products entering the marketplace, increased competition and expanded alcohol advertising through the Internet, cable and satellite TV and the print media" as the reason. The recast Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had duties in the past of reviewing alcohol labeling, packaging and claims, but it rarely stepped into alcohol advertising, which is generally regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.

AARP launches ad effort to save Social Security

[Washington] AARP, battling against Social Security privatization, last week launched a print campaign warning of the dangers of President Bush's effort to allow Social Security recipients to invest some or all of their accounts privately. AARP said the ads, from Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas, will appear in more than 50 major newspapers. The ads look like a turned on its side Social Security card and suggest privatizing Social Security is like gambling with retirement money. "If we feel like gambling, we'll play the slots," said one.

Large numbers tune in for tsunami coverage

[New York] News coverage following the destruction caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami has kept the American viewing public glued to TV sets in a week that is traditionally filled with low-rated repeats and year-end round-ups. ABC aired "Tsunami: Wave of Destruction," hosted by Charles Gibson on Dec. 29 and won in both the 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. slots to become the most watched show of the night, according to Nielsen Media Research fast affiliate ratings, provided by ABC. According to NBC, which provided metered market data for Dec. 27, 28, and 29, its "Nightly News" broadcast saw a 10% gain in households while ABC saw a 9% gain and CBS saw a 9% drop. On cable, CNN saw a major bounce, but Fox held its overall lead. In prime time CNN closed the gap. Between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Fox News Channel drew household numbers that were respectively: 623,000; 1,158,000 and 1,316,000. Over the same time period CNN drew figures of 450,000; 1,070,000 and 1,198,000.

Yum, Bally Fitness team up for promo

[Louisville, Ky.] Eager to jump on the New Year's resolution bandwagon, fast-food holding company Yum Brands has teamed up with Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp. to give free, four-week health club memberships. Purchases of any amount from Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver's or A&W Restaurants during January 2005 qualify for the $50 membership. Yum Brands is supporting the public relations-driven promotion with "Keep it balanced" posters in stores where nutritional information posters are located and will highlight each restaurant's better-for-you menu items.

USPS meets with shops to push direct marketing

[Washington] The U.S. Postal Service is promoting direct mail as a marketing tool to general advertising agencies, Postal Service officials said. The agency is meeting with about 10 ad shops between now and March and will then reach out to a broader range of marketing firms. The Postal Service is positioning direct mail as an effective, measurable and creative way of reaching consumers. The Postal Service wants to increase use of direct mail in face of declining first-class mail volume.

Deardourff, adman for GOP, dies at 61

[McLean, Va.] John Deardourff, the GOP political and advertising consultant who aided President Gerald Ford and numerous Republican candidates, died Dec. 24 of cancer. He was 61. Mr. Deardourff was one of the principals of Bailey, Deardourff and Associates, which in the `70s was among the biggest of the GOP political and ad firms. The firm no longer exists.

FYI...

Grey Global Group Chairman-CEO Ed Meyer cashed in stock options granted in 1998, according to a Dec. 23 filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, collecting a profit of $22.4 million. Mr. Meyer is still sitting on options from 1996 worth $16.9 million. ... 21st Century Insurance Co. this week moves to change the low-service image of discount auto insurance providers with an estimated $25 million marketing effort centered on a TV spot replaying the famous crash scene from the movie "The French Connection" and how the car owner was treated when he reported the accident. The campaign is the first from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Dailey & Associates, West Hollywood, Calif., which won the account following a review in November.

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