NASCAR ZOOMS INTO THEME RESTAURANT DEAL;$35M NEUTROGENA ACCOUNT COULD SLIP FROM CARLSON; FORD DIVISION'S GAUNT RETOOLING BRAND STRATEGY; PETRY MEDIA SNAPS UP BLAIR TELEVISION; FRITO-LAY, SARA LEE WHIP UP SNACK CAKE TEST;TACO BELL FORCED TO BENCH SHAQ-HAKEEM MATCH; OPRAH NEARS DECISION ON CONTINUING TALK SHOW; FTC'S PITOFSKY HOPES CUTS WON'T HURT AD OVERSIGHT; MORE THAN 70% OF BRAND CHOICES MADE IN-STORE;REEBOK TIES UP '96 OLYMPIC DEAL;

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.-Nascar has signed an exclusive, long-term licensing deal with Connor Management, Knoxville, Tenn., to own, operate and manage a nationwide chain of Nascar Cafe theme restaurants. The partners will open the first one next summer in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with plans for nine others. The cafes will offer surround-sound video boards and multimedia interactive games; showcase stock cars and trucks; and sell Nascar collectibles and licensed merchandise.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.-Johnson & Johnson is looking to move its $35 million Neutrogena account from Carlson & Partners, New York, to a core worldwide J&J agency as part of a continuing effort to consolidate advertising by category at its club agencies; J&J would not comment. J&J last week shifted its feminine care business from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, which keeps analgesics, to Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York. Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., which had shared Neutrogena creative with Carlson-media buying agency of record for Neutrogena-lost its business two months ago. Besides Saatchi and Ammirati, New York agencies DDB Needham Worldwide and McCann-Erickson Worldwide are core shops; all have conflicts on Neutrogena though Ammirati appears to have the fewest direct conflicts. One-time core agency Young & Rubicam this year created a corporate campaign that was put on hold.

DEARBORN, Mich.-New marketing chief Bobbie Gaunt is spearheading a yearlong, top-to-bottom overhaul of Ford Division's brand strategy in the North American market, Automotive News reported. In June, Ms. Gaunt was named general marketing manager of Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division. The brand examination is expected to refocus the division and change its marketing and product development strategies. J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, handles Ford Division.

NEW YORK-Petry Media Corp. acquired Blair Television in a move to strengthen both media companies, which combined will represent approximately 250 TV stations generating gross national spot sales of $1.8 billion. The two companies will operate independently, and have developed a third operating unit called Petry Media Ventures to develop advertising sales.

DALLAS-Frito-Lay and Sara Lee Corp. soon will begin testing single-serve snack cakes in convenience stores in a Southern market, said an executive familiar with the test. The duo joined forces in August to develop a line of Sara Lee baked goods, distributed by Frito-Lay. The initial test will be expanded to include supermarkets, the executive said.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.-Organizers of the much hyped Taco Bell One-on-One Championship between NBA stars Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O'Neal canceled the Sept. 30 event after Mr. Olajuwon suffered an injury while working out. A Taco Bell spokeswoman said the company doesn't know whether the bout will be rescheduled, but event organizers said NBA training camp commitments made rescheduling "nearly impossible."

CHICAGO-Oprah Winfrey will give King World Productions an answer by Oct. 6, the new deadline for her to decide whether to continue her top-rated syndicated talk show for another year after this season, Electronic Media reported. Analyst Jessica Reif at Merrill Lynch & Co. said she fully expects Ms. Winfrey to continue the show, but said the postponed decision "highlights the annual risk King World now faces" with Ms. Winfrey's new distribution deal. The pact gives the host the right to decline to produce and host the show each year after the 1995-96 season with one year's notice.

WASHINGTON-Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky said he hopes his agency's ability to monitor advertising won't be affected by expected budget cuts in 1996. The Senate has proposed 10% cuts in all independent agency budgets. For now, Mr. Pitofsky told a conference of international regulation lawyers and advertisers last week that the commission is focusing on the "real challenge" of monitoring Internet and non-network TV advertising. Also at the conference, American Association of Advertising Agencies VP John F. Kamp said President Clinton's tobacco advertising regulation proposal amounted to "censorship" and a virtual ban on ads for a legal product.

ENGLEWOOD, N.J.-More than 70% of brand purchase decisions are made in-store, according to a new Consumer Buying Habits Study conducted by the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute in conjunction with Meyers Research Center, New York. This number is up from 66% in 1986, when the last study was conducted. Also, the study showed that the overall in-store decision rate was higher at mass merchandise stores than supermarkets, 74% vs. 70%, respectively.

STOUGHTON, Mass.-Reebok International and Atlanta Centennial Olympic Properties have finalized a long in the works deal making Reebok an official footwear supplier and licensee of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Reebok also has the rights to produce videos and/or TV programming based on the Olympic Games, and is talking with other Olympic sponsors, like General Motors and McDonald's Corp., about buying ad positions in its programming effort.

Newslines .....

General Motors Corp. today begins a campaign themed "In a perfect world" for its ongoing California marketing initiative, a strategy encompassing value pricing and simplified shopping. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles, created the TV, radio and print effort.... McDonald's Corp. has elevated two operations executives-Robert Doran and Patrick Flynn-to help McDonald's USA President Edward Rensi oversee the U.S. system, which has grown 50% during Mr. Rensi's tenure....The New Yorker is increasing its circulation rate base by 3.6% to 725,000, hiking the newsstand price by 16% to $2.95 and boosting the basic one-year subscription cost 11% to $39.95 as of the Jan. 8 issue. The price of a color page jumps 12% to $59,460....Kmart Corp. is dropping its sponsorship of the Kmart Greater Greensboro Open golf tourney in Greensboro, N.C., according to a report in Saturday's edition of The Greensboro News & Record....CompuServe begins running advertising this month both within its online service and World Wide Web site (http://www.compuserve.com). The first online advertiser is American Airlines; online rates range from $2,500 to $20,000; Web spots cost $10,000 a month....G. Heileman Brewing Co. got at least a temporary reprieve on its financial problems when lenders agreed to extend it $30 million more in return for Heileman principal owner Hicks Muse & Co. agreeing to guarantee repayment of that money....Time Warner last week agreed to sell its 50% stake in Interscope Records back to Interscope's founders, bending to pressure from rap music critics....Anheuser-Busch is slated to follow up its talking frogs ads with new Budweiser spots combining animation of its famous Clydesdales with actual pictures. DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, handles Budweiser. ....Chuck Ruhr Advertising, Minneapolis, received final bankruptcy court approval to combine its remaining assets with HMS Partners, Columbus, Ohio, forming HMS/Ruhr....Sally Tassani to director of operations for Leo Burnett Co.'s direct, promotions and interactive unit. She had been CEO of Chicago-based Tassani & Paglia....Avon Products and the Reader's Digest Association have formed a strategic marketing alliance to target new customers in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and France.... Quaker State Corp., Dallas, to Temerlin & McClain, Irving, Texas, for its $20 million Quaker State motor oil and Slick 50 brand accounts, from TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.

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