Volkswagen reviews media for VW and Audi brands

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[auburn hills, mich.] Volkswagen of America is reviewing its U.S. media buying account for the VW and Audi brands, two executives close to the automaker said. The pitch pits incumbent Havas' MPG against Grey Global Group's MediaCom, both New York. The brands spent a total of $430 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Both Audi and VW confirmed the media review, but neither would comment (see related story, P. 4).

Samsung saga continues; FCB could still keep account

[new york] Samsung Electronics executives held further meetings with agencies last week as the deadlock continued among different factions within Samsung over the choice between Publicis Groupe or WPP Group after a seven-month global review. There was even speculation, as Samsung re-examined both contenders following the departure of review leader Eric Kim to Intel Corp. (A A, Sept. 6), that Samsung might leave the business at the incumbent, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding.

Ariel Capital sells entire stake in Grey

[chicago] Ariel Capital Management, Grey Global Group's largest shareholder with a 25.8% stake, sold its entire position as of Sept. 30, according to an Oct. 8 securities filing. The money manager made its first investment in 1999 below $400 a share; it cashed out after Grey agreed Sept. 11 to sell to WPP Group in a cash and stock deal initially valued at $1,005 a share or $1.52 billion. Ariel remains an investor in Interpublic Group of Cos. and Omnicom Group. Grey's largest shareholder now is Chairman-CEO Ed Meyer, with a 23.3% stake currently worth $348 million.

Major Interpublic investor unloads bulk of stock

[chicago] Money manager Harris Associates, the fourth-largest investor in Interpublic Group of Cos. with a 5.1% stake (21.4 million shares) as of June 30, sold most of its holding, leaving it with a 0.06% stake (259,760 shares) at the end of the third quarter, according to an Oct. 8 regulatory filing. The value investor bought into Interpublic in late 2001 and increased its holding after accounting and operating problems sent the stock tumbling in 2002. The stock closed Oct. 8 at $10.95 a share. Harris said it doesn't comment on sell decisions.

SC Johnson pulls out of racy TBS reality show

[racine, wis.] SC Johnson has pulled out as principal sponsor of TBS' "He's A Lady" reality show, in which 11 "macho men" receive "female makeovers" to compete in a transvestite beauty pageant. The move comes less than two weeks ahead of the show's scheduled Oct. 19 debut and days after the conservative American Family Association blasted SCJ for sponsoring the show and urged its members to e-mail and call the company. An SCJ spokeswoman would say only: "We've assessed the show, and we will not sponsor it." She declined to comment on why SCJ pulled out, or signed on as sponsor in the first place.

Mercedes taps AAR to conduct Smart review

[montvale, n.j.] Mercedes-Benz USA has hired AAR Partners, New York, to find one or more agencies to handle advertising for its new Smart car, said an executive familiar with the matter. The small vehicle line is slated to make its U.S. debut in 2006. Finalists will be selected this week, said one knowledgeable executive. Dave Schembri, VP-marketing, Mercedes-Benz USA, who oversees the Smart USA unit,denied Smart had started the review, saying he'd begin the process in the next 60 days and probably wouldn't use a consultant. An insider at the automaker, however, told Ad Age the process started about one month ago.

Tropicana turns to Omnicom agencies

[chicago] PepsiCo's Tropicana division is soliciting Omnicom Group agencies for ideas, according to executives close to the company. The scope of the inquiry or how it might affect the incumbent, Omnicom's Element 79, Chicago, is unclear, but PepsiCo has a history of inviting Omnicom agencies to pitch supplemental ideas on new or struggling brands. Pepsi posted low single digit volume gains for Tropicana Pure Premium and it is too early to gauge the launch of Tropicana's juice drink line. Representatives for Element 79 referred calls to Tropicana, which didn't immediately return calls.

Paramount taps Mediaedge for account

[los angeles] Paramount Pictures selected WPP's Mediaedge:cia to handle media buying and planning, according to executives familiar with the matter. In a review, the agency beat out MediaVest, a unit of Publicis Groupe's StarcomMediaVest Group, Interpublic's Initiative and Omnicom's PHD, all in New York. The agencies referred calls to Paramount. Paramount spent $479 million in measured media in 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Paramount did not return calls at press time.

FYI ...

Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division will announce this week that its new tag is: "Built for the road ahead" as it launches new models this fall. It succeeds "If you haven't looked at Ford lately, look again." WPP's J. Walter Thompson, Detroit handles. ... The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth said that while spending on alcohol ads decreased 11% between 2002 and 2003, the number of ads continued to rise and that more ads are showing up on programming more likely to be seen by youth than adults. Fueling the increase was additional ads for distilled spirits brands on cable networks. ... T-Mobile USA will name Publicis Groupe's Conill Advertising, New York and Los Angeles, as its first U.S. Hispanic agency for an account worth an estimated $20 million.

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