Muhammad Ali has been enlisted in the war against terrorism. The boxing legend will appear in a public service announcement for Muslims in the Middle East. Hollywood 9/11, the entertainment industry group contributing to the war effort, will use the ex-champ to do a one-minute PSA to be broadcast over several TV networks, including the Middle East's Al Jazeera. Mr. Ali will tout the virtues of religious freedom that Muslims enjoy in the U.S. Hollywood 9/11 was formed after entertainment industry executives met with Karl Rove, senior adviser to President Bush, in November. It isn't yet known when the spot will run.
NBC comes under fire for accepting liquor ads
A Federal Communications Commission member and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D., Calif.) blasted General Electric Co.'s NBC for agreeing to accept ads for distilled spirits. Sen. Feinstein said she had written NBC Chairman-CEO Robert C. Wright saying "millions of teenagers will be exposed to these ads and ... encouraged to consume hard alcohol." FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps called NBC's decision "a race to the bottom. This is certainly an area where we could use some sense of social responsibility." Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said a poll it commissioned showed 68% of respondents opposed NBC's move.
AOL Time Warner cancels ailing Goodwill Games
AOL Time Warner, which took control of the Goodwill Games after its acquisition of Turner Broadcasting System, snuffed out their flame this month. The games were launched by Ted Turner in 1986 as a way for the U.S. and the then Soviet Union to put politics aside and compete in athletics. Since then, the games have struggled to turn a profit and their relevancy has faded due to the end of the Cold War. But Mr. Turner also got some good news this month: He signed a new contract to remain vice chairman of AOL Time Warner, which augurs a more prominent role for the charismatic founder of CNN as Richard Parsons replaces the retiring Gerald Levin as CEO.
NAD sides with Bayer on St. Joseph's dispute
The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the ad industry' self-regulatory group, sided with Bayer Corp. in a dispute with Johnson & Johnson's McNeil Consumer Healthcare over claims made on the age of St. Joseph Aspirin, and McNeil has agreed to modify its marketing materials, the NAD said. Bayer, which markets Bayer Aspirin, opposed McNeil's use of a St. Joseph's logo that read "Trusted since 1891" since aspirin first was marketed in 1899. McNeil, in turn, said the brand had been around since 1891, not the aspirin. But it conceded that St. Joseph aspirin was not launched until 1922 and acknowledged some consumers could confuse the brand's life-span with the aspirin's. The St. Joseph Web site now features a logo that reads "Trusted since 1922."
Nestle buys General Mills' Ice Cream Partners stake
Nestle USA paid $641 million to buy General Mills' 50% stake in Ice Cream Partners USA, the joint venture struck in 1999 to combine Nestle's novelty ice cream business with Pillsbury's Haagen-Dazs frozen desserts. The agreement was triggered by General Mills' recently completed acquisition of Pillsbury. Ice Cream Partners USA had sales of roughly $700 million in 2000, according to Nestle. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, San Francisco, handles advertising for Haagen-Dazs. Nestle did not comment on whether it would shift the brand to one of its roster agencies, among them Publicis Groupe's Publicis, Dallas, and Interpublic's McCann-Erickson Worldwide.
McCann wins TGI Friday's $40 mil to $50 mil acc't
TGI Friday's, a division of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, Dallas, selected Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, to handle its $40 million to $50 million advertising account, as first reported on AdAge.com (QuikFIND AAM89Q). McCann bested Interpublic sibling Deutsch, Los Angeles, and Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif. Select Resources International, West Hollywood, Calif., was the consultant. Publicis' Publicis Midwest, Dallas, the incumbent, backed out of the finals.
AT&T Broadband bought by Comcast in $47 billion deal
As expected, AT&T Corp. chose Comcast Corp. to acquire its cable unit AT&T Broadband. Comcast beat out AOL Time Warner and Cox Communications in the deal, valued at $47 billion. The combined entity, which will be called AT&T Comcast, will have 21 million customers and be based in Philadelphia, Comcast's headquarters. AT&T Chairman C. Michael Armstrong will serve as chairman, while Comcast President Brian Roberts will be CEO.
Ad groups oppose plan to cut Florida sales tax
Ad groups said they will fight a Florida legislator's plan to cut the state sales tax by a third. Senate President John McKay, a Republican, said the state is too reliant on a 6% sales tax and could get by with a 4% rate, if Florida eliminated exemptions, including one on advertising, that had built up over the years. In 1987, Florida eliminated the exemption on advertising, prompting a boycott of the state by the advertising and media industries that quickly forced the legislature to reverse itself. The Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies issued warnings that the new proposal could bring on a similar fight. Read more: AdAge.com QwikFIND AAM88Y.
Vivendi Universal is buying all TV assets it doesn't own from USA Networks for $10.3 billion in cash and securities. The transaction will leave Vivendi with a 93% stake in a new entity called Vivendi Universal Entertainment. Read more: AdAge.com QwikFIND AAM88S. ... Kinko's named Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas, to handle its $30 million integrated marketing assignment. Finalists were Richards Group and Interpublic's Temerlin McClain, both Dallas, and WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Chicago. Incumbent TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., did not defend the account. ... Sears, Roebuck & Co. agreed to pay $63 million to settle U.S. civil charges that ads for its DieHard batteries were misleading because some batteries didn't meet advertised specifications. Sears said starting in 1994 Exide Technologies, a new battery supplier, produced two lines of DieHard batteries not up to standards, but the supplier wrongly told Sears problems had been fixed. Sears said it later learned test data were false. Exide in March pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud. ... Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Celebrity Cruises, Miami, selected Digitas, Boston, to handle its estimated $35 million integrated marketing account. Finalists included Omnicom's Rapp Collins Worldwide, Dallas, and Wunderman Worldwide, New York, a unit of WPP Group's Young & Rubicam....Omnicom acquired Integrated Merchandising Systems, a retail promotion and branded merchandise company of which closely held Schwarz Worldwide is a major owner. Schwarz is a major paper supplier to DDB client McDonald's Corp.