The Week

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Bank of America auctions account

Bank of america's $160 million media buying and planning review, which was awarded to Bcom3 Group's Starcom, will go down in the history books as the first media review that appeared to be run by purchasing agents, according to many executives who participated. The bank asked competing agencies to participate, as part of the pitch, in a controversial reverse online auction. The agencies were asked to log on to a secure Web site and pitch costs for purchasing broadcast, print, out-of-home and online media. The shops were allowed to continually reduce their bids online. The review began in May, and in June the list was narrowed to Aegis Group's Carat; Starcom; Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media North America, the incumbent media buyer; Omnicom Group's PHD; and Zenith Media, owned jointly by Publicis Groupe and Cordiant Communications Group. That group was winnowed down further, after the auction, until it turned into a shootout between Zenith and Starcom. QwikFIND aan89d

Unilever's Axe lands in the U.S.

Unilever last week kicked off its $90 million North American launch of Axe men's fragrance with a helicopter delivery to 300 bare-chested men waiting near the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York and a party hosted by FHM magazine at Remedy, a Manhattan nightclub. The broader campaign, breaking next month and handled by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, includes TV, cinema and magazine ads; a cross-country Axe Casting Coach tour where men can audition to become the first American "Axe" guy; and sponsorship of MTV's Video Music Awards. "Axe Angels," women dressed as angels who distribute samples, will accompany the events, which are managed by Omnicom's GMR Marketing, Chicago. QwikFIND aan88j

Lawsuit jeopardizes Crispin Porter win

If not for a lawsuit filed against Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota, Crispin Porter Bogusky, Miami, would have an $80 million to $110 million piece of new business. It's not clear if the MDC Communications Corp.-backed agency will ever see that money, or the anti-tobacco account it represents. Blue Cross put all anti-smoking marketing efforts on hold last week, after concluding a months-long agency review process through Minneapolis-based consultant Jan Apple that included Interpublic's Carmichael Lynch and Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, both Minneapolis, in the wake of a lawsuit filed by current and former subscribers. The suit claims Blue Cross should share its entire $412 million endowment-received as a result of the state's settlement with the tobacco industry in the 1990s-with members instead of earmarking $252 million toward its "A Healthier Minnesota" anti-smoking program. QwikFIND aan88k

More bad news for AOL Time Warner

AOL Time Warner last week said it discovered $49 million worth of transactions at its America Online division that may have been improperly recorded as revenue. The three transactions in question occurred over six quarters ended March 31 of this year. The revelation came as the company certified second quarter financial results as required by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The accounting practices of AOL Time Warner are under investigation by the SEC and the U.S. Department of Justice. Separately, David Colburn, an AOL Time Warner executive who spearheaded many of the company's advertising and media deals, has left the company, a spokeswoman confirmed. QwikFIND aan88y

Satellite radio losing orbit

Uncertainty surrounds satellite radio in the wake of Sirius Satellite Radio's stock plunging last week amid concerns over the company's continued viability. Sirius warned in its quarterly filing with the SEC last week that the company may be forced to seek U.S. bankruptcy protection if it does not receive additional funding beyond the $327 million in cash it has to sustain operations through Q2 2003. But Sirius executives remained bullish that they would secure additional funds. The subscription-based radio service, currently seeking an agency to launch a fourth-quarter branding effort, saw its stock plunge to 76 cents Aug. 14, from its 2000 peak of $66.50. Rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings, which included a similar disclaimer about continued viability in its quarter filing, didn't fare much better. It's stock was down to $2.89 last Wednesday from its 2000 high of nearly $46. QwikFIND aan88o

FYI ...

Grey Global Group, which reported net income of $6 million for the first six months of the year, spent $4 million on legal fees and other expenses in the first half related to the federal government's ongoing investigation of alleged kickbacks in the print production field. Grey is cooperating with the investigation of former Grey Exec VP Mitchell Mosallem, accused in the probe. Authorities are also examining whether Grey bears any responsibility for the alleged actions. ... Vector Group's nicotine-free cigarette, Quest, will be available in seven states at the beginning of 2003, one quarter behind schedule. The new smoke-to be sold as a package of three cigarette styles with progressively lower nicotine levels-will be supported by ads breaking in December, said Vector Chairman-CEO Bennet LeBow in a second-quarter earnings call. ... Target Corp.'s Target Stores and Sears, Roebuck and Co. have decided not to place TV commercials on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Also cutting back on advertising on the date is Fox News Radio, distributed by Westwood One, which is managed by Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting Corp. Fox News Radio will run commercial-free from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST.

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