Biggest stories of the year

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1 Shona's perp Walk

Ogilvy & Mather executive Shona Seifert was sent to prison for 18 months for over-billing the U.S. government. Martha Stewart's walk out of "Camp Cupcake" in West Virginia launched 1,000 ponchos. WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years for fraud. John Rigas, the 80-year old founder of cable company Adelphia Corp. got 15 years in the slammer, and his son Timothy 20 years, for using the company's funds as their own play money. In November other son Michael also pleaded guilty.

2 Saatchi 17 say Cheerio

In a dramatic Valentine's Day walkout 17 executives, including Mike Burns and Anne Adriance, showed their love for Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, by walking out of Saatchi and vanishing without a trace. Rumor had it Burns, the worldwide account director on General Mills, was hiding out in St. Bart's and planned to run away with the cereal giant's business. Not true: Interpublic eventually bankrolled a new shop, now called OneSeven-without Mr. Burns-and its only account to date is Unicef.

3 DTC seeks Rx

Pfizer finds a cure for DTC ills with a new marketing approach that intends to leverage its $1 billion plus budget to encourage physician/consumer dialog and in doing so, reduce TV spending while raising Internet and radio outlays. Its first unbranded ads, for Viagra, prove Pfizer is keeping its promise. Of course, the drug giant was also hoping to find a prescription for its own pain: a "fairly toxic" environment for direct-to-consumer advertising due to political and consumer backlash.

4 TV un-set

Once upon a time you needed a TV set to watch TV. No more, now you can see "F Troop" on America Online, "Desperate Housewives" on your iPod, and NFL highlights on your cellphone. All of which has thrown traditionalists into a tizzy over such issues as whether consumers will pay for ad content, what they will pay for ad-free content, who makes money if syndication is skipped and how actors, writers and producers will get a piece of the action. Stay tuned, although we're not sure where.

5 Reality bites

"For the Love of Money" may be the Donald's theme song, but it was also the underlying theme in a nasty lawsuit between Madison Road and Mark Burnett. In court documents, Burnett accused Madison Road of overcharging advertisers to be in programs, and Madison Road countered that Mr. Burnett hiked fees indiscriminately and tried to quash the competition. In an ending only Hollywood could write, the two dismissed the suit and went into business together on a reality series.

6 Fat spat bulks up

In a scene that would put "Animal House" to shame, food marketers, government and private critics got embroiled in a messy food fight over kids' obesity. Amid charges that companies are marketing too many fatty foods to kids, everyone from Kraft to Pepsi is touting exercise programs and healthier eating to youth. But a new government report threatens to ratchet up the pressure even more and is being compared by some to the Surgeon General's landmark report on tobacco in 1964.

7 The best P&G can get

"Now, with added clout" could easily be the tagline for Procter & Gamble now that it has swallowed up Gillette Co. for a cool $57 billion. The marketer has wasted no time flexing its newfound muscles: It cut a more advantageous deal with coupon house Valassis and is expected to play hardball with AC Nielsen's scanner business. It dropped Gillette's media agency of record, MindShare, and tapped Publicis Groupe's Starcom. Now, it's reviewing the way it pays its agencies.

8 Red Tags, pink slips

There was no lack of summer jobs as General Motors hired everyone-or at least considered us all eligible for an employee discount.

The incentive-by- another-name moved the metal-until the fall, when the promotion was dropped and sales results plunged. That prompted GM to come up with a failed "total value promise" pledge that then morphed into the "Red Tag" sale. The "employee discount" strategy taught consumers to wait for the next deal and has failed to stave off a full-scale, plant-closing crisis at GM.

9 A game of Bollore?

The biggest parlor game this year was guessing what Vincent Bollore's endgame was for Havas. Once that became obvious, he created the new game of "Whither Aegis?" The saga continues to play out. The Havas chairman continues to steadily

accumulate Aegis shares. Some anticipate a battle for the boardroom to come, although Bollore has said he will not seek a seat. He did not, however, say whether one of his representatives would.

C'est la vie.

10 View from the bottom

It was a year Interpublic executives would like to forget. There were accounting woes that led to a revolving door of chief financial officers and investigation of its books, a frantic scramble to meet a Sept. 30 filing deadline and eventually a $500 million restatement of earnings over a five-year period. Not to mention Bank of America making a large withdrawal from the holding company. And now? Frank Lowe is back and hungry for one of the few big accounts left at IPG's Lowe.

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