AltaVista, Budget assign European ad accounts

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[palo alto, calif.] Two U.S.-based companies have selected agencies to handle their European accounts. AltaVista, based here, appointed Wieden & Kennedy. The work will be led by the agency's London office, supported by Amsterdam. Wieden, already working with AltaVista in the U.S., now will be responsible for developing the Internet search engine's brand across Europe, initially in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and the U.K. There was no competitive pitch. The $50 million, two-year campaign kicks off in February and consists of TV and online advertising. Separately, Budget Rent A Car tapped Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, London, for its European account. The yearlong assignment also involves sister media buying operation Mediapolis and sales promotion agency Euro RSCG KLP.

P&G consolidates media work in India

[bombay] Procter & Gamble Co. has pushed the "unbundling" concept a step further in India by consolidating its media planning business for all its brands with Chaitra Leo Burnett. Compensation will be based on fees rather than a percentage of media billings and will go to Starcom Worldwide, which Leo Burnett Co. will expand to this country in a few months. P&G hopes to ensure that different kinds of media are chosen for the results they yield rather than the commissions they generate. The move coincides with P&G reappointing Bombay-based Madison Media as its media buying agency for all the marketer's brands. P&G spends in the region of $14 million on advertising in India.

Taco Bell taps TBWA agency in Australia

[sydney] One year after launching here, Taco Bell has dumped Singleton Ogilvy & Mather and appointed Whybin Lawrence TBWA to its $2 million account. Sibling TBWA Worldwide agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., handles the U.S.-based fast-feeder's account in its homeland. Greg Creed, Australian marketing director at Taco Bell parent Tricon Global Restaurants, said that in addition to the benefits of aligning the brand with the TBWA group, he was impressed with Whybin's work on the Pizza Hut pitch earlier this year. Tricon also owns Pizza Hut. Mr. Creed also cited Whybin's expertise in the youth market as a key factor in the Taco Bell appointment. Taco Bell Australia General Manager Dane Hudson said the chain plans to continue using in Australia the Chihuahua TV campaign first developed in the U.S.

Japan's sumo wrestles with sagging interest

[tokyo] The ancient Japanese sport of sumo wrestling turned a new page in its history this month by launching its first-ever national ad campaign. Faced with declining attendance at its grand sumo tournaments, the Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japan Sumo Association) broke ads in national newspapers to promote advance ticket sales. In one of the ads from Dentsu, U.S.-born wrestlers Musashimaru and Akebono, who tip the scales at a combined weight topping half a ton, hold a fan aloft in a chair while the ad uses the phrase "The sumo wrestler seat reservation system has started." Sumo, however, may be facing marketing problems more severe than ticket distribution systems. TV ratings are down for the sport and tournaments that have sold out for decades recently have been faced with empty seats. Japanese media have reported extensively about tax cheating at sumo stables as well as bringing allegations of match fixing.

South African clerics help polish P&G's halo

[johannesburg] Procter & Gamble Co. has enlisted some of South Africa's leading clergymen in its defense against allegations the marketer is under a satanic influence. Duncan Buchanan, Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, is one of three clerical heavy hitters who have signed "To whom it may concern" letters calling the allegations against P&G "deceitful lies" and "false and malicious rumors." The South African Police Service's occult-related crimes unit confirmed it has no evidence to link P&G with satanism. Bizarre rumors associating P&G's traditional "man in the moon" logo to the occult have bedeviled the company on and off for decades in the U.S.; allegations that P&G donates profits to the satanic church first surfaced in South Africa in 1995. Now, with the added impetus from the Internet, the rumors are "spreading like wildfire," said P&G Consumer Relations Manager Ingrid Hannah.

Chinese newspapers expand front-page ads

[beijing] In a highly symbolic gesture of China's move toward a market economy, the Chinese Communist Party auctioned off front-page ad space in the Jan. 1 editions of several of its newspapers. The entire front page of the Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po was auctioned for $118,072 to a shipping company. Ad space in the Chinese Business Times, People's Daily and other major papers from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao also were sold at relatively high prices ranging from $42,170 to $60,241 at the special auction. This is the first time many of the newspapers have sold advertising space on their front pages.

Euro Disney, Air France to offer package deals

[paris] Euro Disney and Air France have joined in a four-year partnership aimed at increasing attendance at Disneyland Paris, boost traffic on the French carrier and simplify travel arrangements for European visitors. The two companies will offer all-inclusive Disneyland packages including air transport with preferential check-in and baggage handling, park entrance, accommodations, and airport connections. The new packages will be introduced gradually across Europe, focusing first on the top five countries of origin for park visitors: France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. Disneyland Paris already is said to be Europe's top tourist attraction, with 12.5 million visitors in 1998. Ad agencies will be called on to provide marketing support to the new all-inclusive offers. Euro Disney has announced plans to hold an international competition early next year for its $50 million account, currently at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide but scheduled to expire in June. Euro RSCG BETC is the lead international agency for Air France.

Also . . .

WPP Group, London, said it's looking for a new chairman to succeed Hamish Maxwell, 73, former chairman-CEO of Philip Morris Cos., who joined WPP in July 1996. WPP is using unnamed headhunters. The appointment will be made by the WPP nomination committee. . . . Wal-Mart Stores has started accepting credit cards in its German stores, precedent setting because discount stores in the country previously only accepted payment by cash or bank debit cards. Wal-Mart last year bought German discount chains Interspar and Wertkauf, which together have 95 stores. . . . After a 15-year absence from TV advertising in the Philippines, Ford Motor Co. launched a 60-second commercial there for its newest car, the Ford Lynx. Five months ago, Ford broke teaser ads on print and radio, heralding its return in the Philippine market. J. Walter Thompson Co., Manila, handles. . . . British Sky Broadcasting, the U.K. pay-TV operator controlled by Rupert Murdoch, furthered its European expansion by acquiring a 24% stake in Kirch PayTV, the subsidiary of Leo Kirch's media empire in Germany. The main goal of the alliance is to raise subscription levels of Kirch's Premiere World channel to 2.9 million members from its current 2.1 million by the end of 2000, to 3.5 million by the end of 2001 and 4 million by the end of 2002. BSkyB has 7.9 million members. Under the deal, Mr. Murdoch could take a majority stake in the unit after 2001 if subscription deals aren't met. This is a likely scenario, German media analysts say. . . . Francisco Loureiro quit his post as president of America Online in Brazil. The company didn't explain the reason for his departure. Charles Herington, AOL's Latin America head, is temporarily managing the Brazilian operation while he searches for a new president.

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