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Reckitt Benckiser moves U.S. media acc't to SFM

Reckitt Benckiser awarded its U.S. media planning and buying to SFM Media/ MPG, New York. The agency picks up responsibilities for all Reckitt Benckiser household and food brands in the U.S. McCann-Erickson Worldwide previously handled household products and Warwick Baker O'Neill handled food. Reckitt Benckiser spent $134 million in U.S. media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. In the U.S., Reckitt Benckiser markets such brands as French's mustard, Electrasol, Lysol and Resolve. In addition, Reckitt Benckiser named M2 Universal to handle media in Canada.

Fallon catches ad work of Long John Silver's

Long John Silver's awarded Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, the quick-service seafood chain's $40 million account, as expected (AA, March 27). Fallon pitched the account only because of the new management put in place after Yorkshire Global Restaurants acquired Long John Silver's last September. "If the new management hadn't have been there, we wouldn't have been interested," said agency Chief Marketing Officer Mark Goldstein. The troubled brand had gone through a number of agencies over the past three years. Doe-Anderson, Louisville, Ky., had been filling in on a project basis for current ads.

Sears sears Focus Media in latest court action

In the latest volley between Focus Media and Sears, Roebuck & Co., the retail giant said it stopped forwarding money to the media buying agency in February "because Sears had sent Focus in excess of $50 million in the previous 21/2 months and Sears had concerns about whether that money was being properly paid to media outlets." Sears in February sued Santa Monica, Calif.-based Focus for breach of contract and making slow payments to the media. Focus last month countersued, claiming the retailer violated an oral agreement for one year's notice of termination. In the Sears reply memorandum filed regarding the Focus countersuit, Senior VP-Retail Marketing David Selby also said Sears never made such an oral agreement. Mr. Selby denied Focus' charges that Sears was trying to drive Focus out of business, and he disputed allegations made in an affidavit by Tom Rubin, Focus chairman-CEO, that Sears was upset about his attempt to sell the company to an agency holding company. "Rubin has been claiming that such a merger was imminent throughout my tenure at Sears," Mr. Selby said. "Nonetheless, no such merger has occurred." Another hearing on the conflict scheduled for last week was postponed till April 6.

Alberto-Culver revamps into 3 product groups

Alberto-Culver Co. is reshuffling its portfolio of consumer brands into three groups in North America, Crain's Chicago Business reported. The move is designed in part to raise the profile of brands outside Alberto-Culver's core beauty products business. The new North American umbrella group will market by product type -- it consists of Alberto Personal Care Products, which will handle retail hair and skin products including VO5 shampoo; Culver Specialty Brands, including spice and household products such as Mrs. Dash and Kleen Guard; and Pro-Line International, which will bring together the ethnic personal-care products of Alberto-Culver and the recently acquired Pro-Line Corp.

Oxydol, NutraSweet shunned by corp. parents

Procter & Gamble Co. is looking to sell its Oxydol laundry detergent brand in the latest in a series of sales of "non-strategic" brands in recent years, including Prell shampoo and Hawaiian Punch. Oxydol, acquired by P&G in 1927, hasn't received advertising or significant promotional support for several years. The brand has sales of less than $10 million and, while still profitable, doesn't have potential as a global brand, P&G said. Another well-known brand on the move is NutraSweet, as Monsanto Co. agreed to sell its sweetener ingredient business for $440 million to investment company J.W. Childs Equity Partners II. The sale, along with Monsanto's recent disposal of its tabletop sweetener business, is part of the company's efforts to focus on agriculture and pharmaceuticals rather than consumer-based food products. The new NutraSweet Co. plans to extend the aspartame ingredient business, as well as put additional focus on its neotame sweetener.

Agency vet Crolius heads marketing at `Forbes'

Kendall Crolius was appointed VP-marketing at Forbes. Ms. Crolius was most recently group managing director at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York. Before McCann, she was at J. Walter Thompson USA for 14 years.

Internet initiatives . . .

One dot-com is pressing ahead with its $30 million campaign, while marketing powerhouses outside the U.S. intensify their online activities:

* Move.com last week unveiled the next components of its estimated $30 million campaign from Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco. The campaign for Cendant Corp.'s relocation, real estate and home-related services portal includes TV, print and radio ads. Radio spots broke in a few major markets in February. TV spots debuted March 27 in selected markets including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Magazine and newspaper ads will start later this spring. The tagline: "It's a better move." As part of the campaign, the Move.com logo appears in all ads for network partners Century 21, Coldwell Banker and ERA.

* Sony Corp. revealed a broad strategy for increasing its Internet business that includes setting up a Net bank with Sakura Bank and J.P. Morgan. The Internet bank will start service in the first half of 2001; Sony will hold an 80% stake in the company, which will be capitalized at $355 million. Japan's Sakura Bank will have a 16% share and J.P Morgan a 4% stake. Sony will ask J.P Morgan to provide personal financial advice tools like the ones it offers on morganonline.com.

* Pirelli announced a $975 million, three-year plan to transform the Italian tire giant to operate in the "new economy." The initiative will include the use of Web-based distribution, inventory and manufacturing systems, as well as the launch of other Internet ventures. The plan is being developed in coordination with U.S.-based Cisco Systems. Pirelli said it will sell its newest product, the P2500 one-size-fits-all tire, only on the Internet. Armando Testa, Milan, will handle ads related to Internet initiatives.

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