Taylor nelson sofres last week said it is in discussions with Interpublic Group of Cos. to acquire the holding company's NFO WorldGroup unit. Interpublic put the market-research firm up for sale in late December in an effort to divest non-core businesses and reduce its debt. (AA, Dec. 30) Interpublic hopes to complete the sale in the second quarter. In a statement, Taylor Nelson Sofres said "the price currently under discussion is below the $500 million level quoted in previous press reports." Interpublic bought NFO in April 2000 for $493 million in Interpublic stock plus $180 million in debt on NFO's balance sheet. United Business Media was seen as front-runner to buy NFO, but Taylor Nelson now emerges as the most likely prospect to buy the research firm. One individual said a deal still could be several weeks away. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao56i
Nokia hands Grey $100 mil account
Nokia awarded its estimated $100 million worldwide launch of N-Gage, a gaming mobile phone, to Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide. Ads will break this fall, with a launch before the end of the year. Grey, Nokia's agency in Europe, pitched against the other two agencies that handle Nokia cellphone business. Cordiant Communications Group's Bates Worldwide works for Nokia in Asia and just won its U.S. business-to-business account, and Richards Group, an independent agency based in Dallas, is the Finnish company's U.S. agency. Nokia is expected to create its own N-Gage game titles and work with other companies such as Sega to develop games for the new platform. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao56m
Mr. Peanut makes return for Planters
Kraft foods' Planters breaks a campaign this week from Interpublic's Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York, it's first in five years. The ads bring the 100-year-old character Mr. Peanut to life. The previous work, "Nutty Icon," ended its run in January. Planters' media spending on the multiple executions is estimated at between $15 million and $20 million.
Tobacco giants protest Calif. ads
Using state documents revealed in a tobacco lawsuit, Lorillard Tobacco Co. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. sued the State of California arguing a state anti-tobacco ad program illegally used cigarette taxes to try to increase jury verdicts rather than try to stop smoking. The companies claim that in requiring them to pay for the ads, the campaign represented unconstitutional "compelled speech." Separately, Lorillard agreed to pay the American Legacy Foundation $28.4 million to fund the group's "Truth" campaign. Lorillard is still suing Legacy, arguing that its advertising violated the agreement with state attorneys general that resulted in tobacco makers funding Legacy's campaign. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao56n
State AGs plan SUV safety ads
The florida attorney general's office is heading a 50-state review for a onetime, $30 million, national sport utility vehicle safety campaign. The state office will first pick a consultant to assist in the review and plans to narrow a list of agencies to six by May 1, with a winner named in August. Brad Barbin, special counsel to the office, chaired the 50-state group that sued Ford Motor Co., alleging false advertising for its Explorer SUV, and the fall campaign will be funded out of Ford's $5.1 million settlement last December. Agencies with current national auto or regional dealer accounts will not be considered. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao56e
Aurora Foods taps new leaders
Aurora foods last week promoted Eric Brenk and Michael J. Hojnacki to share the role of president-chief operating officer. The management change, according to Mr. Hojnacki, is part of a reorganization, with Mr. Brenk leading operations and Mr. Hojnacki (former senior VP-marketing) linking expanded branding and advertising initiatives with sales efforts. Aurora plans to better leverage the scale of its $1 billion, nine-brand portfolio at retail and return to higher media-spending levels as the faltering company "gets back to basics," Mr. Hojnacki said.
Applegate farms will launch in late summer a line of kids' lunches dubbed The Organic Lunchbox. The kits will be carried in Whole Foods and other natural grocery stores.The kits will feature fewer sugars and saturated fats than Kraft Foods' Oscar Mayer Lunchables,according to company materials. ...Angered by a Procter & Gamble Co. decision earlier this year to at least temporarily discontinue marketing the hair products that bear his name, legendary hair stylist Vidal Sassoon filed suit against P&G, alleging systematic neglect, mismanagement, sabotage, fraud and breach of contract. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao56j...The U.S. Postal Service is ready to settle a deal with Capital One Financial Corp. to provide discounts on first-class mail after the first 1.225 billion pieces sent. It is estimated the deal will save the postal service $13 million a year, as under the agreement it will not return undeliverable mail. It is also expected to prompt more first-class volume, said Stephen Kearney, VP-pricing and classification. Final approval is expected from the Postal Rate Commission by the end of the month. The Postal Service has seen "substantial interest" from others, and is open to negotiating. AdAge.com QwikFIND aao56v...U.S. Sens. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., may hold a hearing looking into a new study from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth claiming alcohol radio ads are more likely to be heard by youths than adults. The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. disputes that finding, saying data showed 83% of the radio audience hearing distilled spirits ads were adult.