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PENNY-WISE: Nike's Li'l Penny ad spokespuppet is now available at toy stores. Playmates Toys this month introduced a line of Li'l Penny dolls that includes a 14-inch Talking Li'l Penny (featuring the voice of comedian Chris Rock), a 9-inch House Party Li'l Penny and a 9-inch Pro Li'l Penny (above). Playmates isn't planning ad support, but Nike has a new spot from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., on the way featuring the puppet and his real-life inspiration, NBA star Anfernee Hardaway. That ad supports a new basketball shoe endorsed by Mr. Hardaway.

MICROSOFT SPOOF: Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and chief deputy Steve Ballmer tool around in a Volkswagen Golf in their spin on VW's "Da da da" spot. In their version, Messrs. Gates and Ballmer pick up a discarded chair and a Sun Microsystems computer. They keep the chair -- but dump the rival computer because it smells. Mr. Gates used the spoof in his keynote last week at the Comdex trade show. It was part of a 7-minute video created by Tri-Film, Kirkland, Wash. Writer and director: Mark Dickison.

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Among the U.S. stars who rarely show their faces in ads at home but are amenable to appearing overseas is Brad Pitt. Mr. Pitt, directed by American Meiert Avis of Windmill Lane Productions, Santa Monica, Calif., stars in Japanese spots breaking this week for Edwin Jeans Co. Yomiko Advertising, Tokyo, handles. Creative director: Makoto Negishi.

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For its holiday catalog, Victoria's Secret takes a more secular approach with its models -- clipping the angelic wings they've been wearing in advertising, in favor of Santa suits. Among the pricier gifts offered by The Limited Inc.'s purveyor of lingerie is a first-ever chance for the public to attend its spring fashion show, at $20,000 for a pair of tickets (proceeds go the Pediatric AIDS Foundation).


Midway Home Entertainment pits NHL star Wayne Gretzky against himself in two spots that debuted last week for its new videogame, The NHL & NHLPA Present Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey '98. The commercials from DDB Needham Worldwide, Dallas, cut back and forth between videogame footage and Mr. Gretzky playing against the game's representation of himself -- with the flesh-and-blood hockey great losing. The game is for the Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation platforms.

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