2000 The year in review

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FORD FOCUS

The Ford Focus is a hit for Ford Motor Co. The small car, which bowed in the U.S. in September 1999, is already the world's best-selling small car. But more importantly, says Focus Brand Manager Bob Fesmire, a quarter of the car's U.S. buyers are under the age of 25. Ford Division took the unorthodox advertising approach with the use of live TV commercials from J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit. By spring, however, the marketer switched to interactive commercials, allowing viewers to pick commercial scenarios ahead of time online. The car marketer has, so far, made good on its promise to conduct a two-year, episodic launch. The vehicle has sponsored sweepstakes and concerts and issued limited-volume special editions to keep the buzz going. It got measured media support of $54.6 million this year through August, says Competitive Media Reporting. Mr. Fesmire expects Ford to sell 300,000 Focus cars this year.

GO-GURT

Go-Gurt is still going. General Mills has sparked competitor innovation in the refrigerated yogurt category based on the knockout success of its no-spoon-required Yoplait Go-Gurt. The national launch of the kid-friendly yogurt in a tube singlehandedly pushed General Mills ahead of longtime category leader Danone Group's Dannon Co. The role reversal in turn prompted Dannon to nearly triple 2000 ad spending for its Danimals kid-targeted line, with more than half of the dedicated $12 million in advertising tapped for the launch of Dannon's own portable entry, Danimals Drinkables. Proof of Go-Gurt's success in creating a hot new category segment is the launch this past July of Yo-Squeeze, an all-natural version of the squeezable yogurt from growing dairy marketer Stonyfield Farm. General Mills itself is hoping to capitalize on the big idea by extending it to a new adult version of the squeeze yogurt, Yoplait Expresse.

NAPSTER

Bertelsmann AG caught other record labels napping over Napster earlier this year. For more than a year, the free music-sharing online service had been in litigation with angry record labels. Just when it seemed like Napster was going out of business, Thomas Middledorf, CEO of Bertelsmann, pulled the rug out from everyone by striking a deal with the renegade music company. The prize: a colossal customer base approaching 40 million worldwide users a month. It remains unclear whether Napster will become a subscriber- or advertiser-supported service. One thing for sure, there will be continued upheaval. For instance, BMG executives, including BMG Entertainment President Strauss Zelnick, resigned soon after Mr. Middledorf's move. As far as other music companies' position on Napster, they are still suing to the same old song: You can't get somethin' for nothin'.

New age beverages

Not only were consumers buying Snapple, SoBe and other drinks infused with herbs, nutrients and other additives such as guarana and caffeine, but big corporations wanted to buy them, too. In a surprise move, PepsiCo bought South Beach Beverage Co. for $370 million, making a run around archrival Coca-Cola Co. PepsiCo also bought Quaker Oats Co. for $13.4 billion in stock after Coca-Cola's board nixed Atlanta's $15.8 billion plan to absorb the parent of Gatorade. The No. 3 soft-drink player, Cadbury Schweppes, weighed in with its $1.45 billion acquisition of Snapple Beverage Co. The isotonic category was so hot Anheuser-Busch Cos. launched 180, an orange-flavor drink that promised to "turn your energy around"-its fifth post-Prohibition non-alcoholic offering.

NOKIA

The No. 1 marketer of wireless handsets, Nokia has led the wireless consumer revolution, energizing the entire category with cool products that target diverse demographics. The lifestyle approach, supported by high-profile brand advertising and promotional tie-ins, has proved so successful over the past couple of years, that rivals Ericsson and Motorola have both gotten into the act with a vengeance. Nokia also is leading the charge into wireless advertising and promotion via handsets, and on the enterprise side of its business, the Finnish telcom is beefing up its global networking and embedded technologies efforts.

Playstation2

Five years ago, Sony Computer Entertainment America's PlayStation took the gaming world by storm. This fall, Sony's PlayStation 2 debuted to equally enthusiastic gamers, but shortages of the product made more news than the game system itself. Due to component and production issues, Sony had to revise estimates for North America, shipping only half of the 1 million units it expected to have available on the product's Oct. 26 launch date. Sony shipped 100,000 units per week through December, but not enough to satisfy eager gamers. Sony says 2001 will be the more important ramp-up year.

PT CRUISER

DaimlerChrysler Corp. has a winner on its hands-the Chrysler PT Cruiser-a cool, retro-looking, category-busting sedan with minivan capabilities. At the start of 1999, it collected names from people at auto shows who wanted brochures. The car got more exposure in a 10-city tour of tailgate parties at college football games. Demand has outstripped supply for the marketer's first globally launched car. Germans have a three-month wait. When it first started trickling into U.S. dealerships in April, some dealers were charging $2,000 or more over the base sticker price of $16,000. The marketer sold 8,322 units the first month in the U.S.-nearly twice as many as the initial month for Volkswagen of America's New Beetle two years ago. Through November, 81,052 PT Cruisers were sold.

RAZOR SCOOTER

It took a kick from a snappy little aluminum scooter to push Pokemon aside as this year's biggest obsession with kids, and now millions of Razor scooters ply U.S. streets. The craze owes a debt to Sharper Image Chairman-CEO Richard Thalheimer, who spotted the lightweight, foldable scooter in Hong Kong in 1998 and cut a deal with Taiwan-based JD Corp. to sell them. Sales have been picking up speed ever since, with average prices of $100 at Sharper Image and $70 at nearly every drugstore chain and mass merchandiser in America. JD's North America arm, Razor USA, expects to sell more than 5 million of its patented scooters in the U.S. That doesn't include numerous knock-offs sold by more than 15 competitors (temporarily halted by a restraining order following Razor's patent infringement lawsuit this fall).

"SURVIVOR"

CBS hit "Survivor" gave TV advertisers a much-needed message in a bottle. The note read that the network could attract a younger audience, the elusive 18-49 viewers advertisers can so much about. The big financial waves won't come to shore until January for CBS. That's when the network will reap $12 million in booty from each of a limited number of advertisers for the next series of shows, called "Survivor: The Australian Outback." "Survivor's" story line had other unanticipated fringe benefits, such as establishing its own J.R. Ewing of the new millennium: "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch, a man you love to hate.

TIVO

It was coined an "ad-zapper," fanning the flames among ad agencies, broadcasters and marketers that thought TiVo was destined to kill advertising as we know it. Now, they're scrambling to work with the company to find how to harness the technology they hope will deliver new revenue streams from couch commerce. Marketed with set-top boxes produced by Philips Electronics and Sony Electronics, the TiVo service enables consumers to digitally record their favorite TV shows for viewing later. It also allows consumers to fast-forward through ads. TiVo says the promise of one-to-one marketing and tailoring ad messages and offers to fit individual preferences have great potential. Rival Replay TV retrenched, getting out of ad sales to focus on its software.

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