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Direct marketing acquisition, merger and buyout activity increased 87% in the first half of 1998 over the same period last year, resulting in 444 deals compared with 238 in 1997, according to a study by investment banking firm Gruppo, Levey & Capell. Almost 70% of all acquisitions took place in five of the 31 industry segments tracked by Gruppo Levey: agency, catalog, computer services, electronic commerce and interactive services. The total value of transactions in the first half was about $23 billion, up 59% from the same period last year.

Genesis Direct, Secaucus, N.J., acquired Carol Wright Gifts, the catalog and collectible items marketing unit of Cox Enterprises, for 2.7 million shares of common stock, the value of which will be set at the time of closing. The deal does not affect Cox Direct's Carol Wright cooperative direct-mail program.

Marvin Waldman, 48, to chief creative officer, Wunderman Cato Johnson, New York, a unit of Young & Rubicam. The post was vacant for three years. Mr. Waldman previously was executive creative director of integrated communications, Y&R Advertising.

Encyclopaedia Britannica to direct marketing consultancy Kobs Gregory Passavant, Chicago, for direct-marketing projects, including strategic analysis, research, planning and creative. Foote, Cone & Belding is Britannica's corporate ad agency.

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