Adages - Marquis Jet to ad shop: 'You're fired!' On second thought: 'You're hired!'

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Marquis Jet's CEO Ken Austin told Adages that the company's relationship with Brit-based ad shop Gyro Group is "up in the air" following a report that appeared in this column last week that the time-share airline hired the agency. "Before they even start doing work for us, we're firing them," said Ken to Adages last week. Marquis Jet appeared in the second episode of NBC's "The Apprentice." Contestants in the show created campaigns for the company as part of a competition judged by Donny Deutsch. Gyro Group execs approached Ken afterward and offered to do a real Marquis ad campaign. Adages was told by an executive close to the matter that they were given some ad work worth about $6 million. Ken, who did not return earlier calls for comment, now denies it.

"The agency came to us and said we can do this and we can do that for you," said Ken. "So we said, give it a shot, and we'll give you a little bit of money and we'll see if we like it." Ken said Gyro Group simply created a few print ads that would have run in The Wall Street Journal and the Robb Report, but now apparently will not.

Ken also said his company's ad billings are not $6 million. "That couldn't be further from the truth. If we had that kind of money, we'd be doing a lot more than we do. It's just kind of nutty." Ken, however, did admit that the campaign created by "The Apprentice" women's team, which won over Judge Donny, was too risque and would never be used by the company. "But we would have hired the women, " said Ken. "We would have just changed their direction."

After talking to Ken, Adages contacted an exec at Gyro Group who told Adages: "I just got off the phone with Ken and he said, `You're not fired."' Ken then called Adages back and confirmed that Gyro Group indeed was not fired. "We're just evaluating their work," he said.

Perhaps the Donald should drag these boys into the boardroom and make a decision for them.

Superfly

One more thing, contrary to the Adages item last week, Gyro will not appear in the April 15 finale of "The Apprentice" with Marquis Jet. However, Marquis Jet will appear again in the March 11 episode of "The Apprentice." In the episode, the two competing teams are told to make as much money as they can with rickshaws, carrying tourists around the city. One of the teams approached Marquis to sponsor their rickshaw. Marquis Jet agreed, outfitting the team with branded shirts and hats and plastering the rickshaw with its logo. The deal cost the company about $1,400. "It was worth it," says a Marquis Jet spokesman. "It's not about advertising our marque on a rickshaw, it's about being on national television."Marquis Jet will get about 10 minutes of airtime. A :30 in "The Apprentice" goes for almost $400,000, according to media buyers.

BBDO to ad execs: Adios!

Meanwhile, more drama at BBDO Detroit in the wake of last month's sudden resignation of CEO Mike Vogel and the unexpected January retirement of Exec VP John Hammond, account chief on Chrysler Group's Chrysler brand. Two more exec VPs, were just let go, execs close to the matter said: Scott Thornton, chief of Chrysler's international and corporate accounts, and Tom Luke, there only a year as head of strategic planning. A BBDO spokesman confirmed they left, but refused to discuss circumstances. No word on whether the two will be replaced.

Catching the worm

Bloomberg's TV network launched the first upfront ad sales event of 2004 on March 1 in its glassy, high-tech offices on Park Ave. "We wanted to beat everyone to the punch," said Michael Rosen, head of media sales as he threaded his way through the crowd of well-heeled financial advertisers. Not only is Bloomberg's upfront push early, so is its prime-time programming. "Our prime-time hours are 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.," says Michael. "Our viewers get up early and track the markets." Bloomberg's advertisers also have a headstart. "I've completed all of my upfront buying," said Bret Sandford Chung, senior VP-director of advertising at SmithBarney, who was at the Bloomberg upfront. One might say, figuratively, Bloomberg is smoking.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo, Jean Halliday

Looking for apprentices? Contact rlinnett@crain.com

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