CULTURE POP: SPINDEX: MATTEL'S LONGTIME FAVORITE DOLL TOPS MARKETING TALLY

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HOLIDAY HYPE: The media can't resist a good toy story.

Barbie has emerged as the biggest marketing story going into the 1997 holiday shopping season.

Mattel's makeover of Barbie scored 73 print and electronic news stories in the SPINdex sample of influential media outlets, including 19 network newscasts totaling 8.5 minutes of national airtime. And while Sleep & Snore Ernie hasn't elicited nearly the attention previously lavished on Tickle Me Elmo, he did rank fourth among all marketing events tracked during the month leading up to this column.

The perennial December marketing news event -- Super Bowl ad sales -- ranked second, with a SPINdex score of 431. The story of ad agency holding company True North Communications' wanted and unwanted merger partners came in third with 46 stories.

News of Levi Strauss & Co.'s account review garnered fifth place this month,

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