APPLE TURMOIL SPILLS OVER TO AD ACCOUNT

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Apple Computer's ad assignment was thrown into as much turmoil as the rest of the company late last week, with agencies scrambling to pluck the account from BBDO Worldwide, rumored to be on its way out.

At the same time, Apple executives said the PC marketer is preparing to slash its $200 million ad budget as part of a plan to cut costs in the wake of huge financial losses.

BIZARRE TIMING

Word of a possible review came at a bizarre time, amid reports that Apple was in talks to be acquired by Sun Microsystems. No deal had been announced at press time.

Executives at Apple product divisions said they are being given autonomy to oversee communications strategies. At best, that's likely to mark the end of BBDO's reign as Apple's global shop.

Reports were flying about agencies trying to bite off pieces of Apple, including Young & Rubicam, New York; Y&R sister marketing services agency Wunderman Cato Johnson; and Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.

AGENCY DENIALS

All denied they were talking to Apple, though Fallon didn't rule out pursuing the account and Wunderman, which handles Apple's U.S. direct marketing and promotions, has been building its relationship with Apple.

At press time, Apple President-CEO Michael Spindler had not returned calls to BBDO West, Los Angeles, also struggling Friday to determine the status of its relationship. Satjiv Chahil, senior VP-corporate marketing and mastermind of Apple's new marketing direction, couldn't be reached by BBDO or Advertising Age.

`ONE NEVER KNOWS'

"With Apple, one never knows what is the truth and not the truth," said BBDO West Chairman David Lubars. "I await with anticipation to be enlightened."

The timing of a review would be strange since moves being plotted now could be discarded if the Sun deal goes through.

Mr. Chahil, a believer in promotions and entertainment-related marketing schemes, is no fan of BBDO. While working in Japan, he fired BBDO's affiliate, Asatsu, and hired Dentsu.

BBDO'S BEST HOPE

BBDO's best hope to salvage its 10-year relationship-the longest-surviving major computer account-may be for Apple to be sold and Messrs. Spindler and Chahil to exit. BBDO could then present a case history of its consistent, respected work for Apple.

"Apple is dealing with business issues far more critical than their current advertising. We've had no discussion with anyone at Apple that even remotely suggests they are considering a review or are in any way dissatisfied with BBDO's work," said BBDO Chairman Allen Rosenshine.

Contributing to this story: Alice Z. Cuneo, Mark Gleason, Pat Sloan and Jeff Jensen.

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