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M&B to handle Knorr in U.K.

[london] Unilever is hiring independent media-strategy agency Michaelides & Bednash to come up with new ways to maximize Knorr's $27 million marketing budget across Europe. London-based M&B will lead what Unilever calls "brand activation" for Knorr to find new ways to connect with audiences. The initiative will cross all media and entail close cooperation between M&B and Knorr's global agency partners at three different holding companies-WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson and MindShare, Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media. Charlie Stopford, Unilever Bestfoods' media manager, said, "My brief is to bring brands to life as part of a consumer's everyday experience." A leading global culinary brand, Knorr has annual sales of over $6 billion.

-emma hall

Maurice Saatchi launches political ad

[london] In the British version of election advertising, Maurice Saatchi, in his dual role of M&C Saatchi founder and co-chairman of the U.K.'s out-of-power Conservative party, is behind a political ad campaign that combines imagery from a popular home-improvement show and discount sofa commercials. After negative attacks on the Labor government, the Conservatives switched to a lighthearted approach. In an outdoor ad, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown sits on a sofa wearing a frilly shirt and velvet suit, in imitation of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, the well-known presenter of home-improvement show "Changing Rooms," the U.K. version of "Trading Spaces." The caption reads, "Labor's special offer-you won't pay until 2005." Created in-house, the ad underlines the Conservative party's claim that Mr. Brown plans to raise taxes if Labor wins a third term in the next general elections, expected to take place in summer 2005. Maurice Saatchi and his brother Charles became famous for their political advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi. A Saatchi poster showing a long line of unemployed people and the headline "Labor isn't working" was credited with bringing Margaret Thatcher to power in 1979.

VW taps DMG for China account

[shanghai, china] Volkswagen, the leading auto maker in China, spurned five international agency networks and picked Shanghai shop DMG to handle creative for its first national brand campaign in mainland China after a review. DMG beat out Omnicom's DDB and BBDO Worldwide, Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi and WPP's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Billings were not disclosed, but the assignment doesn't affect VW's existing agency relationships in China. Shanghai VW, formed with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. in 1984, manufactures Santana, Passat, Golf and Polo models. Ogilvy handles Santana, Saatchi & Saatchi works with Polo and Golf, and Grey does Passat and VW's import business. DMG already does all the advertising for Volkswagen's other joint venture in China, called FAW-VW, which produces Jetta, Audi and Bora models.

-dagmar mussey and normandy madden

Deutsche Telekom media biz in review

[bonn, germany] Deutsche Telekom is reviewing its estimated $400 million to $450 million media buying and planning account in the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Austria. Both incumbents, Interpublic's Universal McCann, Frankfurt, and Grey's MediaCom, Duesseldorf, have been invited to pitch, along with WPP's MindShare, Frankfurt. Deutsche Telekom will hear the three networks' pitches in mid-April. Separately, Kraft Foods is reviewing media buying in three parts of Europe in an effort to consolidate most of its media buying globally with MindShare and Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest. The reviews are happening in the U.K., where Publicis' ZenithOptimedia is the incumbent; in Spain and Portugal, handled by Aegis Group's Carat; and Scandinavia, now at Omnicom's OMD. -dagmar mussey

FYI...

havas-owned Arnold Worldwide Partners has completed a long-awaited agreement to sell back most of its stake in U.K. agency WCRS to local management, retaining just 25%. Arnold has dropped ambitions to be a global network, and now has small shops in eight countries outside the U.S. ... Dentsu hopes to become one of China's leading entertainment providers through a joint venture with Shanghai Film Group Corp. that will find and promote programming and sell airtime for Shanghai East Movie Channel, launched on 3.5 million cable homes in Shanghai at the end of 2003 as China's first 24-hour movie channel.

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