COMPAQ SIZZLES, MCD'S COOLS: DDB NEEDHAM WORLDWIDE AGENCY RATING: 2-1/2 STARS

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Did somebody say McDonald's? After a promising start in '97, DDB Needham Worldwide's work on McDonald's sometimes felt as cool as leftover fries in '98. Hotter was the agency's high-tech and integrated marketing areas, where the $200 million Compaq Computer Corp. win and the formation of DDB Digital provided big boosts. Total U.S. billings jumped a healthy $500 million on additional new business from clients including Level 3 Communications and US West.

On the down side, a $25 million Frito-Lay consolidation took the agency's Rold Gold pretzel business away, and perhaps with it those inspired Jason Alexander spots. The loss of the New York Lottery account was a bummer for the New York office as well.

Creatively, the Chicago office bounced back with a series of likable Budweiser spots that compared favorably to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' Frankie and Louie ads for Bud.

LOOKING AHEAD

The agency still lacks a strong creative presence in New York. Now that John Staffen, former creative on the lottery business, has moved to Chicago to head the account, it's likely McDonald's work will begin to perk up. And '99 could be

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