WPP, OMNICOM PROFITS UP OVER 20% IN 1998

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WPP Group, London, and Omnicom Group, New York, saw their profits jump by more than 20% in 1998. WPP, helped by growth in its core U.S. and European markets, saw after-tax profits for '98 jump 20.8% to $239 million. The holding company that includes Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and J. Walter Thompson Co. boosted revenue 9.8% to $3.1 billion as gross billings climbed 9.8% to $13.1 billion. Omnicom reported fourth-quarter net income of $94.4 million, up 27% from a year ago. Worldwide revenue from commission and fee income increased 34% to $1.2 billion in the period. For full-year 1998, net income climbed 28% to $285.1 million, as revenue spurted 31% to $4.1 billion. Domestic revenue increased 30% to $2.1 billion, while international rose 32% to $2 billion for the holding company that includes BBDO Worldwide, DDB Needham Worldwide and TBWA Worldwide.

Y&R gains lead role for Jim Beam bourbon

Jim Beam Brands Co. tapped Y&R Advertising, Chicago, as lead agency for the $15 million global Jim Beam bourbon account. It will work with network offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the U.S. Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, previously handled. Jim Beam and Y&R now are discussing possible assignments for other unassigned brands, including DeKuyper cordials.

Citizen Watch eyes Deutsch for $15 mil acc't

Citizen Watch Co. of America was said to be close to awarding Deutsch, New York, its $12 million to $15 million creative account. D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles was the previous agency. Deutsch and Citizen couldn't be reached at deadline.

DDB Needham exits Discover Card review

DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, dropped out of the $80 million review for Discover Financial Services' Discover Card account, ending an 11-year relationship between the marketer and the incumbent shop. Still in the hunt are Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco; Leo Burnett USA, Chicago; Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York; and Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

Calvin Klein axes ads for new kids underwear

Calvin Klein Inc. withdrew a campaign to launch a line of children's underwear after critics labeled it "kiddie porn" and threatened to boycott the company. The outdoor and print campaign from in-house agency CRK Advertising, New York, featured b&w photographs of children playing in their underwear.

Richards denies it swiped sandwich image

Richards Group, Dallas, denied it purloined the image of a talking ham sandwich from an Internet publication, Tabloid.net, to use as a character in its current $20 million orange juice campaign for the Florida Department of Citrus. In a lawsuit filed Feb. 8 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Tabloid News Services, operator of Tabloid.net, accused the agency of copyright infringement and unfair competition. An item about the flap on the Web site (www.tabloid.net) says its records show Richards employees had visited the site. A Richards spokeswoman said at deadline that the agency hadn't yet been served with notice of the suit and therefore there are currently no plans to pull the spots in question.

Euro RSCG acquires S.F. agency Citron

Euro RSCG Worldwide, New York, building its presence on the West Coast, purchased a majority stake in San Francisco's largest independent agency, Citron Haligman Bedecarre. The acquired shop, to be called Citron Haligman Bedecarre Euro RSCG, has clients including H.J. Heinz Co.'s Ore-Ida Foods; Good Guys!, a West Coast-based electronics retailer; catalog projects for retailer Eddie Bauer; and HomeShark.com, an online discount-mortgage broker and home-listing service. The shops put Citron's billings at $100 million. No conflicts were expected, said Bob Schmetterer, chairman-CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide. He said the shop would remain autonomous.

Aurora's fish brands beef up ad spending

Aurora Foods said it will double ad spending for Mrs. Paul's and Van de Kamp's frozen fish lines to $6 million during the Lenten season. A nine-week ad program including national TV and print from Louis London, St. Louis, will support several new product improvements, including lower-fat baked fillets under both brand names; larger-size fish sticks and fillets under the Mrs. Paul's brand; and whole fish fillet Tenders under the Van de Kamp's name.

Burgmans to command Unilever Dutch branch

Antony Burgmans will succeed Morris Tabaksblat as chairman of Unilever NV and vice chairman of Unilever PLC after the Anglo-Dutch company's shareholders meeting May 4. Mr. Burgmans, now vice chairman of Unilever NV, was widely speculated as the front-runner to succeed Mr. Tabaksblat atop the Dutch arm of the company since Mr. Tabaksblat announced last year he would retire from Unilever to chair Reed Elsevier. Like Niall FitzGerald, the chairman of Unilever's British arm who has launched reorganizations of the management structure and marketing practices, Mr. Burgmans has a reputation as a streamliner, said company watchers.

Kovel, Asatsu split; shop merges with Fuller

Lee Kovel, president-creative director of Kovel/Kresser & Partners, Venice, Calif., severed his ties with Asatsu-DK and instead merged with Los Angeles shop Fuller Group, forming Kovel/Fuller. The new agency's management team consists of Mr. Kovel as managing partner; John Fuller, managing partner and former CEO of the Fuller Group; and Kovel/Kresser's Christina Allen, who keeps the title of strategic planning and media director. Yushi Ebihara, chairman-CEO of Kovel/Kresser, becomes chairman of K2 Niche Group, where he will specialize in

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