Microsoft Corp. and Qwest Communications announced April 26 a strategic alliance to offer MSN Internet Access, content and services via Qwest's broadband Internet network to more than 12 million homes. Under terms of the deal, Qwest will spend $100 million over five years on advertising and cross-marketing for its high-speed DSL service on the MSN network. Qwest will market MSN Internet Access and services to its new and existing customers in its 14-state service area. In exchange, Microsoft's MSN will buy broadband capacity, digital subscriber lines, dial ports, and billing and collection services from Qwest. The agreement, starting this summer, means that 500,000 Qwest.net subscribers and potential customers will get MSN Internet Access via Qwest DSL service. (See AdAge.com for more.)
Kmart's marketing chief resigns for family reasons
Brent Willis, who led Kmart Corp.'s efforts in the $25 million BlueLight Special launch earlier this month, resigned effective May 7 for family-related reasons, a company spokeswoman said. Kmart's chairman-CEO, Chuck Conaway, in a brief statement said, "We understand and respect Brent's decision to put his family first and are thankful for his many contributions to Kmart. We wish him well in his new endeavors." The spokeswoman said Mark Schwartz, Kmart's new president and chief operating officer, will head up marketing and advertising for the time being and that the company was evaluating whether to fill the post of chief marketing officer. Mr. Willis, 40, who was a top executive in Coca-Cola Co.'s Latin American operations, was hired as Kmart's first chief marketing officer last fall. Some retail analysts speculated in news reports that Mr. Willis' comments in an Advertising Age P. 1 story April 9, about the BlueLight revival, may have contributed to his departure. Mr. Willis, who denied that speculation in comments to media outlets, didn't return phone calls to Ad Age by press time.
Burger King to complete global executive team
Burger King Corp. this week is expected to name the last member of its four newly created global executive management team, its chief financial officer. As expected, the company last week hired former Minnesota Twins executives for two of the posts, naming Chris Clouser exec VP-chief marketing officer and Richard "Ben" Hirst exec VP-general counsel (AA, April 23). Both had worked for CEO John Dasburg at Northwest Airlines. The Diageo unit also named Kim Lopdrup exec VP-chief operating officer from CEO of Allied Domecq Quick Service Restaurants International.
Help-wanted ads decline to lowest level since 1993
As corporate layoffs continue, help-wanted advertising dropped in March to its lowest level in eight years, according to the latest figures from the Conference Board. The board's Help Wanted Advertising Index dropped in March to 66 from 88 for the same month last year, reflecting an increase in the U.S. unemployment rate to 4.3% from 4% a year earlier. The index, based on help-wanted ad volume in 51 newspapers, has not been this low since April 1993, when the economy was emerging from the early 1990s' recession.
Sony unveils 12 spots
for digital platforms
Sony Electronics on April 25 screened a series of new TV spots and ad concepts at a media briefing to showcase its marketing effort to help promote Sony's platform-based strategy of connected digital devices (AA, April 16). A dozen new TV spots created by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York and Irvine, Calif., tout three digital platforms: home entertainment, a personal network concept, and portable audio. All of Sony's advertising is wrapped under the umbrella theme "Dream On." (See AdAge.com for more.)
United Parcel Service, Atlanta, moved creative duties on its account to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., from sibling Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York. Lowe Lintas keeps media buying and planning. According to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, UPS spent nearly $105 million in measured media last year. The shift signals the end of a concerted effort by Lowe Lintas to retain the business. The intra-holding company shift to Martin comes as UPS struggles with slumping package volume and a 32% fall in first-quarter profits amid the slowing economy. UPS on April 19 announced an aggressive plan to slash its expenses.
The California Department of Health Services this week breaks the first spots of its $25 million anti-smoking campaign from new agency Ground Zero, Marina del Rey, Calif. ... Procter & Gamble Co. confirmed that it wants to divest its Jif peanut butter and Crisco shortening and oil brands. ... Universal Studios Home Video will put together $50 million in marketing support for the DVD/home video release of "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." ... WPP-owned Young & Rubicam's Impiric, Chicago, was tapped by Unilever to handle promotional marketing for its Salon Selectives, Thermasilk and Finesse shampoo brands.