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Most-advertised drugs show big sales gain

The 50 most heavily advertised drugs last year accounted for nearly half the increase in prescription ad spending, according to a study from the National Institute for Health Care Management Research and Educational Foundation. At the same time, the study said that as of yet, data aren't conclusive if direct-to-consumer advertising has been a detriment by causing patients to get inappropriate treatment or a benefit to those who wouldn't have sought treatment had they not seen the ads. The study reported that sales of drugs rose 18.8% to $132 billion last year, with 47.8% coming from increases in the sales of the 50 most heavily advertised drugs. Among the pharmaceutical companies with the largest ad spending was Merck & Co., whose $160 million in spending for Vioxx beat spending of Anheuser-Busch Cos.' Budweiser and PepsiCo's Pepsi. Read more: AdAge.com QwikFIND AAM81F.

Two major cruise lines announce merger plan

Royal Caribbean Cruises and P&O Princess Cruises, the Nos. 2 and 3 cruise lines in the world, respectively, based on available berths, announced a merger that will create the world's largest cruise operator and pose a more formidable challenge to current industry leader Carnival Corp. While it is unclear what the new corporate name of the combined company will be-the working name is RCP Cruise Lines-the merger will not affect the individual brand names operated by the companies such as Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. Also uncertain is how the advertising agency rosters of the companies would be impacted. Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, handles Royal Caribbean, while Interpublic Group of Cos.' Suissa Miller, Los Angeles, is the agency for Princess. Completion of the merger pending regulatory and shareholder hurdles is expected mid-2002.

Winter Olympic online marketing kicks off

The 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City don't officially start until Feb. 8 (see story, P. 1), but interactive marketing activity is in full swing. Olympic sponsors Qwest Communications and General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Division are featured prominently on the Web sites www.olympics.com and www.nbcolympics.com and are making use of interactive technology from Microsoft Corp.'s MSN to integrate their offline sponsorships with online programs. The technology also will enable real-time communication between sponsors and fans. Qwest is building a fiber-optic broadband network to link all communications in and out of the Salt Lake venues. The telecommunications company also is sponsoring Olympic news alerts to handheld devices and PCs, an interactive voting poll tied to figure skating, and directory search functions. Chevrolet, a sponsor of the Olympic Torch Relay, will track the flame's 65-day trek across the U.S. on the Olympic site.

Steve Wilhite lands marketing post at Nissan

Steve Wilhite joined Nissan North America's Nissan Division as VP-marketing. The move was first reported by AdAge.com. Jack Collins, who had been VP-product planning and marketing, keeps his product planning responsibilities. Mr. Wilhite is best known for helping to turn around Volkswagen of America, where he rose to VP-sales and marketing. He left VW in January 1999 and joined Apple Computer as VP-marketing communications in April of that year. He left Apple a year ago.

President and first lady appear in holiday spot

President Bush and his wife, Laura, gave thanks in an Advertising Council public service announcement. A 30-second spot filmed by the Bushes at their Crawford, Texas, ranch by Golin Harris Public Relations for the Corporation for National Service began airing last week on major broadcast and cable networks. The "Thanks for Giving" ad, while tied to Thanksgiving, also ties to the Sept. 11 terrorist incidents.

San Francisco adman Robert Buechert dies

Robert William Buechert, 68, founder of Vicom Associates, one of San Francisco's first health-care advertising agencies, died Nov. 2 in a San Rafael, Calif., hospital following a short illness. Mr. Buechert, once creative director for a number of health-care agencies including J. Walter Thompson Deltakos and Klemptner Advertising, helped launch a number of recognized medicines such as Naprosyn. Foote, Cone & Belding, now part of Interpublic, acquired Vicom Associates in 1984. He is survived by his wife, daughter and his son, Courtney, recently named exec VP-general manager of Interpublic's McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco.

FYI

Susan Whiting succeeds John A. Dimling as CEO of Nielsen Media Research. Ms. Whiting was named president-chief operating officer in May. Mr. Dimling becomes nonexecutive chairman. The appointment is effective Jan. 1. ... Charlie Metzger, senior VP-director of business development and resource development at McCann-Erickson, Troy, Mich., adds the agency's new title and duties of director of client services. ... CoolSavings, an online provider of online incentive marketing programs for Internet and offline retailers was delisted Nov. 21 from the Nasdaq after failing to meet minimum asset and stock-price requirements. ... Gerald M. Levin, CEO of AOL Time Warner, will receive the first John A. Reisenbach Award for Distinguished Citizenship at the 10th Anniversary Gala of the John A. Reisenbach Foundation.

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