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BILLINGS SLIDE SPARKS NEW-BIZ PUSH: WIEDEN & KENNEDY AGENCY RATING: 2-1/2 STARS

Published on .

Just as the National Basketball Association moves into a new era without Michael Jordan, so too does the Portland creative shop that molded his image. It was a difficult year for Wieden & Kennedy: Nike billings dropped, a mini-scandal erupted in Europe when a Nike creative team pitched, and won, Adidas business, and Microsoft needed a major image makeover as Bill Gates & Co. went to federal court. Overall billings dropped by $75 million to about $800 million for 1998.

Wieden overhauled management, revamped Nike creative, gave its New York and overseas offices more independence and mounted a new business push, resulting in parlaying its sports-marketing expertise into wins of PowerBar and Indy auto racing.

LOOKING AHEAD

By yearend, Wieden had damage control in place; Nike was happy, its Microsoft spots spotlighted the softer side of Bill Gates, and Coca-Cola Co. awarded the agency lead creative status for its $60 million Diet Coke account following a project assignment a year earlier. And just like Mr. Jordan, marketers haven't forgotten about Wieden. At yearend, the shop was pitching the $150 million

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