Time Warner posts 60% surge in 1Q net

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dick parsons, Time Warner's chairman-CEO, was upbeat last week as he unveiled the company's first-quarter earning results, telling analysts he is confident that Time Warner's ongoing strategy will restore synergy between its disparate holdings. Time Warner's first-quarter revenue grew 1% over last year to $10.5 billion, thanks largely to its cable division and its "triple-play" offer. The triple-play bundle-in which consumers can purchase cable, phone service and high-speed Internet in one package-helped Time Warner add 82,000 basic-cable subscribers in the first three months of 2006. Time Warner's cable business and the sale of its book group to Lagardere boosted the holding company's first-quarter earnings 60% over the year-earlier period. Earnings grew to $1.46 billion from $915 million in 2005. This increase comes despite online division AOL's recent poor performance. Revenue from AOL declined 7% from a year ago to $2 billion. It lost 835,000 subscribers in the first quarter.

Unilever unloads Finesse, Aqua Net brands

once a u.k. company that specialized in helping European marketers make inroads in Africa, Lornamead Brands is moving into the North America in a bigger way following its acquisition of Unilever's $85 million Finesse and Aqua Net brands in the U.S. and Canada last week. The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, follows Lornamead's acquisition of the Yardley personal-care brand from Procter & Gamble Co. earlier this year. Finesse and Aqua Net had become low-priority brands for Unilever in recent years as it concentrated on Dove and the launch of Sunsilk hair care this summer. As a result, both have suffered share losses, though they have held up better than some other more heavily supported brands, such as P&G's Physique and Pert. Physique was discontinued earlier this year. And a P&G deal to divest Pert, which was offered last year at the same time as Finesse, fell through according to people familiar with the matter.

FTC asked to rein in marketing of baby videos

declaring there is little proof videos for babies make children any smarter and some that it doesn't, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asked the Federal Trade Commission to curb marketing for Walt Disney's Baby Einstein and a smaller rival, Brainy Baby. The group accused the marketers of "false and deceptive" marketing, noting an American Academy of Pediatrics report suggesting children under 2 have no screen time. Baby Einstein officials declined to comment, while Brainy Baby's CEO said the company doesn't run ads and doesn't claim to educate babies.

Henkel taps BBDO for Right Guard biz

it's up to the Chicago office of Omnicom Group's Energy BBDO to do what BBDO New York office couldn't-reverse the sagging fortunes of Right Guard deodorant.

The change of venue follows the closing of Henkel's purchase of Right Guard last week, along with lesser brands Dry Idea and Soft & Dri, as part of a divestiture mandated by the Federal Trade Commission in approving Procter & Gamble Co.'s acquisition of Gillette.

Under Gillette, Right Guard has fallen in recent years from the No.1 to No. 3 men's deodorant amid a fierce battle between P&G's Old Spice, now No. 1, and Unilever's Axe, now No. 2.

A spokeswoman for Henkel's Dial unit said a "knowledge transfer" is under way between BBDO's New York and Chicago offices on the brands. BBDO, Chicago already handled other Dial business.

Spokespeople said both Henkel and P&G are comfortable with BBDO, Chicago, handling Right Guard even as the New York office handles Gillette, including the megabrand's deodorant line, for P&G.

The arrangement is unusual, but permitted, under P&G's agency conflict policy, a spokeswoman said, and was deemed worthwhile to help facilitate a divestiture that will allow P&G to consolidate the Gillette deodorant business with its own.

FYI

the new york times named Alexis Buryk its new senior VP-advertising, looking within to fill the key post being vacated by Jyll Holzman for "personal family reasons," according to the paper. Ms. Holzman had been The Times's top ad sales executive since 1999 and helped the paper navigate the tumult generated by Internet's arrival, bust and revival. ... Reader's Digest Association said Laura McEwen, its VP-publishing director since June 2003, is leaving the company to pursue other interests. The company did not explain the split, but it may mean a more visible role ahead for Bonnie K. Bachar, its president of U.S. magazines. Until her promotion last August, Ms. Bachar had been general manager of the North American publishing group, where among other things she oversaw development of Every Day with Rachael Ray.
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