GATES CLIMBS HIS SOAPBOX

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Bill Gates and friends invited the media to an old-fashion anti-government rally in New York City last week -- but it wasn't for freedom of speech or against nukes. No, it was to save Microsoft's Windows 98 from the possibility of a delayed rollout by the nasty feds. Gates proclaimed: "We're fighting to protect the principle of innovation." Detractors, organized by ProComp (Promote Competition & Innovation in the Digital Age) -- with members like Sun Microsystems, Netscape and Oracle -- in turn invited the media to an anti-rally rally. They asserted that what's really good for the U.S. economy is innovation, competition and the enforcement of antitrust laws.

Levi's boos `box' thinking

For a week before the launch of TBWA Chiat/Day's first ad work for Levi Strauss & Co., a large, mysterious red box stood outside Levi's headquarters in San Francisco. Agency creative guru Lee Clow opened that box last week at a rally to kick off his client's campaign. Inside the container was . . . nothing. Levi's officials explained that the jeans giant now thinks outside the box. Expect the unexpected, they advised.

Ticket trouble for Goodby

Fillmore Auditorium security guards barred Jeff Goodby from the San Francisco Show even as his Goodby, Silverstein & Partners was dominating the awards bash again (AA, May 4). Goodby was unable to sell the guards on his tale that he had bought more than 100 tickets and his was locked in luggage in a parked car. It took Goodby more than a half-hour to secure his ticket, but he made it inside in time to receive the awards.

ABP ponies up for polo event

For the big trade associations, it's always a challenge finding the right evening entertainment for their annual conferences. After all, how many recycled 1970s bands and poolside buffets can anyone take? Last week in Palm Springs, American Business Press President Gordon Hughes came up with a new twist: professional-level polo under the stars at the Eldorado Polo Club. Though the two three-man teams only played two chukkers as a demonstration, the crowd of business publishers (and spouses) was clearly enthralled. Better yet, at the end the club allowed the media executives to pile into golf carts and play motor-polo against each other. And you thought the competition was fierce when it came to selling ads.

Got a beef . . . kernel promoted

While waiting for the marketing department to pick up at veggie burger marketer Boca Burger, Adages listened to a radio ad for Steak & Ale's Prime Rib Dinner. The call, to find out if the brand was in review, turned out to be a bum steer. . . . What used to be the dregs of microwave popcorn is now a new snack. Food entrepreneur Doug Foreman is unveiling Popnots!, consisting of the partially popped kernels that previously dwelled only at the bottom of the bag. The CEO of Foreman Foods says he has found a way to make the kernels softer but they still have a "full-bodied crunch."

Compiled by Dan Lippe with news from Beth Snyder, Alice Z. Cuneo, David Klein and Judann Pollack.

Got an Adage? Tell Brad by phone, (213) 651-3710, ext. 111; fax, (213) 655-8157; or email, Brad@crain.com.

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