The Week

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Unilever reaffirms 2nd half ad plans

Offering a glimmer of brightness among otherwise gloomy earnings news last week, Unilever said it plans to continue to spend on advertising through the second half. About 14% of Unilever's revenue currently goes to advertising. Chairman Niall FitzGerald told analysts that a decline in ad rates have meant the company is "getting more bang for the buck." The company forecast improved per-share earnings growth for the year, excluding restructuring charges, to the "mid teens" from a previous forecast in the low teens. Chief Financial Officer Rudy Markham said in a conference call with analysts that accelerated earnings growth won't come from cutting advertising and promotion expenses but from other better-than-expected savings and sales growth. The bulk of the company's 2002 marketing initiatives, led by the $90 million U.S. launch of Axe men's fragrance and deodorants, is scheduled for the second half. AdAge.com QwikFIND aan84h

Everyone can do something for U.S.

The white house launched the Ad Council's new public service campaign for the USA Freedom Corps and Corporation for National and Community Service. The ads pitch volunteer service as the answer to some of the concerns raised after Sept. 11. TV ads produced by Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, under the Ad Council's Campaign for Freedom unit, feature President Bush. "When you help your neighbors, you help your nation," he says in the TV ads. Three TV spots, using humor and celebrities carry the theme line "Everyone can do something." In one spot, former Republican Senator Bob Dole and Democratic Senator John Glenn argue in front of school kids at a zoo whether the elephant or the donkey is "strong, ethical, dependable, compassionate and patriotic." Another has actress Angie Harmon put forth her "experience" as a prosecutor and ends up teaching kids how to spell "habeas corpus." BBDO did TV and radio in English and Spanish, while Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency did print. BBDO retired chairman Phil Dusenberry is creative counsel for the Campaign for Freedom and supervised the ads.

GM taps into Diesel power

General motors corp. hit the product placement sweepstakes when a 1967 Pontiac GTO was chosen as the lead car in Revolution Studios' "XXX," a spy thriller starring GenY idol Vin Diesel. Initially, GM didn't plan any activity around the movie, said an executive close to the situation. But that changed this spring after GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz announced plans to import its Holden unit's Monaro from Australia next year and re-badge it as a GTO. Luckily for GM, "XXX" director Rob Cohen had already decided by then to include the GTO in his film. Pontiac's agency, Bcom3 Group's D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy, Mich., created ads to support an online promotion at pontiac.com to meet the actor. Digitas handled the online portion for Pontiac. The movie, distributed by Columbia Pictures, arrives in theaters Aug. 9. GM's deal calls for the filmmakers to use a GTO in the sequel, with more GM participation. Norm Marshall & Associates and consultant Michael Kassan brokered the deal. AdAge.com QwikFIND aan83h

AOL TW: You've got Justice probe

Merrill lynch &co. analyst Jessica Reif Cohen held to her neutral rating on AOL Time Warner's stock following last week's news the Justice Department has joined the Securities and Exchange Commission in investigating the company's finances. Ms. Cohen originally downgraded the stock after disclosure of the SEC probe, but noted this will add even more volatility to the stock. "We prefer to remain on the sidelines given the uncertainty an investigation such as this creates and the overhang for the company," she wrote. The investigations follow a Washington Post report AOL manipulated revenue prior to the close of its merger with Time Warner in January 2001. A Justice Department spokesman said the agency would not comment. In a statement, AOL management said it was not surprised, given the current environment, and said it would cooperate with both investigations. The company added that its outside auditors, Ernst & Young, "have repeatedly confirmed" that AOL's accounting is in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

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Burger King: Not for camera shy

Burger king corp. will test a hidden camera TV spot for its 99-cent BK Value Menu for a possible national launch this fall. "This is just a test," said a spokeswoman. The effort via Interpublic's Deutsch, Los Angeles, will be produced by Half Day Video, Valencia, Calif., a subsidiary of ValCom, known for its hidden camera productions for the WB and Fox networks. It will be the first campaign developed by Deutsch since being added to the chain's roster in May. AdAge.com QwikFIND aan84c

FYI...

Barring any last minute protests, on Aug. 16 the California Lottery Commission will finalize the selection of Interpublic's Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, San Francisco, for its five-year, $125 million advertising account, with a one-year optional extension. ... The White House created the "office of global communication," which will be headed by a counselor to the president and will work with Charlotte Beers, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.... Primedia sold Chicago magazine to Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune, for $35 million. AdAge.com QwikFIND aan84o

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