CREATIVE PROVES BRIGHT SPOT: N.W. AYER & PARTNERS -- AGENCY RATING: 2-1/2 STARS

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Usually not known for its cutting-edge creative, N.W. Ayer & Partners produced some sharp work in 1998, most notably the "Work hard, fly right" effort for Continental Airlines, which thumbed its nose at over-the-top airline advertising. Other noteworthy campaigns included an effort for Procter & Gamble Co.'s Millstone coffee that tweaked Starbucks, Avon's push urging women to "claim your beauty" and the "People in Motion" corporate work for General Motors Corp.

The agency continued boosting management and broadening operations, including an overseas expansion kicked off at the end of 1997 with the appointment of Julian Boulding to lead its international division. Stateside, Mary Beth Casey was promoted to president from exec VP and senior partner to assume some of the duties held by CEO Mary Lou Quinlan, and Stuart Hazlewood was named executive planning director.

LOOKING AHEAD

Ayer scored big in the $66 million consolidation of Avon Corp.'s global account at parent MacManus Group. It is expected to gain more as the cosmetics company steps up spending as part of its marketing plan. KitchenAid, another recent client, is expected to hike spending, and P&G has given Ayer new assignments for

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