APPLE'S NEW CHIEF WILL PUT BBDO TO THE TEST;MARKETER LISTENS TO CREATIVE IDEAS FROM A VARIETY OF OTHER SOURCES

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Apple Computer Chairman-CEO Gil Amelio closed a speech last week with Apple's "Mission: Impossible" commercial, but the new boss is withholding judgment on the agency that produced it.

Asked by Advertising Age how happy he was with BBDO Worldwide, Mr. Amelio said: "It's too early for me to tell you that. They've done some good things and some other things that haven't been as great. I think we need to do a better job of directing them as to what story we want to tell."

MEETING IN JUNE

Mr. Amelio is expected to meet with BBDO executives for the first time next month, including BBDO Worldwide Chairman Allen Rosenshine, BBDO New York Chairman Phil Dusenberry and Los Angeles office President David Lubars.

Satjiv Chahil, Apple senior VP-corporate marketing, said the agency has been "extremely responsive" and "the working relationship is good."

Mr. Chahil is listening to creative concepts from outside BBDO, however. For example, he's been discussing various ideas with Oliviero Toscani, the controversial creative director behind Benetton Group's advertising.

"We have lots of creative ideas coming from people from all walks of life," Mr. Chahil said.

Mr. Amelio, in his first public comments about Apple advertising, vowed to scrutinize ad spending as part of his drive to slash costs and return Apple to profitability.

NO `FREE RIDE'

"Nothing is immune," he said. "I haven't cut any of the advertising budget, but I don't want any one of my managers to get the message that they get a free ride."

Mr. Amelio made his comments at a news conference and in an interview following a speech in San Jose, Calif., to software developers and analysts.

Apple, the world's No. 3 PC marketer, spent $204.7 million on advertising last year, more than No. 1 Compaq Computer Corp. If it matched Compaq in putting 1.36% of revenues into advertising, Apple's ad budget would have shrunk to $150 million.

Mr. Chahil said he would feel "irresponsible" asking for more money because Apple can get "more bang for the buck" with existing budgets. At best, he said, Apple's ad spending will remain at current percentage levels (1.85% of revenues last year). With revenues falling, that suggests spending will drop.

Mr. Amelio last week gave the first glimpse of his turnaround plans, saying Apple will cut costs, slash product lines and focus on the Internet, but won't withdraw from any geographic or product markets.

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