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[Auburn Hills, Mich.] Volkswagen of North America hired Kerri Martin for the newly created position of director of market development overseeing advertising, promotions, market strategies and public relations. Ms. Martin, who will start in early April, resigned in the past 10 days as marketing chief, or "guardian of the brand soul" of BMW of North America's Mini Cooper unit.

Sony contacts agencies for $120 million account

[San Diego] Sony Electronics is contacting almost a dozen agencies to pitch its estimated $120 million advertising account. Select Resources International, Santa Monica, Calif., said the "process has begun" but declined to identify the shops on its long list. Incumbent WPP Group's Young & Rubicam, Irvine, Calif., is not defending. A decision is expected in June. Sony did not return phone calls.

Nike sees first post-Knight profit

[Beaverton, Ore.] Nike posted a 36% increase in its 2004 third-quarter profit, the first quarter since company co-founder Phil Knight stepped down as CEO in favor of former SC Johnson CEO William Perez. The expansion of its women's apparel business, as well as the Shox brand of athletic shoe, helped fuel the increase. Sales of Nike subsidiaries, including sneaker line Converse and shoe-maker Cole Haan, rose 20% from last year.

Intuit taps Marks Schar to step up `Net presence

[Mountain View, Calif.] Intuit has named former Procter & Gamble Co. executive Mark Schar as its new chief marketing officer, effective in April. The maker of TurboTax and Quicken tax and accounting software is looking to significantly step up its presence in interactive advertising, Mr. Schar said. Intuit wants to make the Internet as important a piece of its marketing "as network TV was to Procter & Gamble in the 1950s," Mr. Schar said. Mr. Schar, who was most recently VP of interactive ventures and market research for P&G, left the company in 2002. He has been an advisor and board member to interactive and market research startups since leaving P&G.

ABC's `Jake' off to rocky Thursday start

[New York] After a big Sunday night, ABC's newest sitcom, "Jake in Progress," opened in its regular Thursday night prime-time slot a disappointing fourth place among 18-to-49-year-olds on March 17. Walt Disney Co.'s ABC is making a run at the coveted Thursday night race with "Jake," starring John Stamos. The half-hour premieres nabbed a 2.2 rating at 8 p.m. and 2.3 rating at 8:30, losing to a rerun of NBC's "Will & Grace," Fox's "O.C." and the NCAA Tournament on CBS. ABC offered two half-hour episodes of "Jake" Sunday, March 13, in its normal "Desperate Housewives" slot; it was first among 18-49s at 9 p.m. with a 5.9 rating and second at 9:30 with a 5.1. Oddly, reruns of those episodes at 9 on Thursday night pulled a 2.5 rating.

Novartis awards non-U.S. media to Mediaedge:cia

[Basel, Switzerland] Pharmaceutical marketer Novartis has reportedly awarded its non-U.S. media buying account to WPP's Mediaedge:cia.The U.K.'s Campaign magazine reported that Mediaedge picked up $200 million in billings on Novartis' over-the-counter, pharmaceutical and CIBA vision business. Novartis and Mediaedge both declined to comment. WPP's MindShare handles media buying in the U.S. for Novartis.

MSN beefing up on branded entertainment

[Redmond, Wash.] Microsoft Corp.'s MSN leveled a challenge to Yahoo and Google last week by doubling the staff and increasing the budget for its branded entertainment group. It is currently running branded ads for Gillette and American Express. Ad pacts with Sprite and Volkswagen are in the offing. To take on Google, MSN also started a pay-per-click search marketing service in beta tests in Singapore and France, which will roll out in the U.S. in 2006. MSN's deal with Search Marketing Solutions (formerly Overture) to power its paid search in a revenue-sharing arrangement runs until then.

Sillerman buys `Idol' production company

[Los Angeles] Robert F.X. Sillerman, a media and entertainment maven who once owned radio operation SFX Broadcasting, has bought the T.V. production company behind reality powerhouse "American Idol." Mr. Sillerman will buy 19 Entertainment Ltd. from its founder Simon Fuller. 19 Entertainment created "Pop Idol" in Britain and co-produces the U.S. spinoff "American Idol" with Fremantle Media. Mr. Fuller, who has steered the careers of "American Idol" contestants like Kelly Clarkson and Clay Aiken, will receive $123 million in cash and about 1.9 million shares of Mr. Sillerman's company. He will manage the venture.

`Tracks' seeking new funding after losing Wood

[New York] Tracks, the bimonthly music title started by Spin veterans John Rollins and Alan Light, is seeking additional financing following the pullout of its primary investor, former radio entrepreneur Frank Wood. Mr. Wood said personal circumstances forced him to stop funding the magazine last December. He remains the title's chairman. Tracks has sufficient funds to keep publishing into the summer. "They found some [financing] and they are looking for one more" major investor, said Mr. Wood.


In a long-expected move, Linda Wolf, chairman-CEO of Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Worldwide, is slated to retire in May, executives said. Tom Bernardin, president of Leo Burnett Worldwide, will succeed her. A Leo Burnett spokeswoman declined comment. ... Martha Stewart Living, which had put offices up for sublet at 11 W. 42nd St., has taken them back as it plans expansions following the release of its founder from prison, reports Crain's New York Business. Real estate insiders say that the company, which was trying to sublet 20,000 square feet on the eighth floor, will keep the space for its own businesses. Brokerage Cushman & Wakefield represents Martha Stewart Living. ... The Social Security reform debate gets more ads this week as AARP kicks off a new round opposing President George W. Bush's reform effort and Progress for America kicks off ads favoring it. AARP's effort from Interpublic's GSD&M, Austin, Texas, includes print ads in Rolling Stone, People and newspapers and a TV spot. Progress for America is running a TV spot from McCarthy Marcus Hennings, Washington, in 30 congressional districts to compliment its national buy.

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