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[new york] Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi here will defend its estimated $90 million creative account for the Greater New York Toyota Dealers Association against six challengers, all New York-based: Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide; DeVito Verdi; Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide; Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos; Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners and Wolf Group. Roth & Associates is handling the review.

Microsoft opens review for MSN's direct account

[redmond, wash.] Microsoft Corp.'s MSN is reviewing agencies for its direct marketing account, estimated at $15 million to $20 million, executives familiar with the situation said. Innes Maggiore Group, Canton, Ohio, is the incumbent. Interpublic's McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, is the general agency for Microsoft.

Merrill cuts '03 view, gets bullish on `04

[new york] Merrill Lynch & Co. cut its 2003 forecast for U.S. and global ad spending to 3.3% growth in U.S. spending (down from a 3.7% forecast in February) and 2% growth globally (down from 2.7%). Merrill upgraded forecasts for 2004, calling for U.S. growth of 6.2% and global growth of 5.1%, up from 6% and 5%, respectively.

P&G loses suit brought by Playtex

[new york] A U.S. District Court jury in New York on May 23 awarded Playtex Products $2.96 million in its false-advertising suit against Procter & Gamble Co. Playtex charged P&G's ads for Tampax Pearl tampons, from Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, falsely claimed the Tampax product is superior to similar Playtex products. A P&G spokeswoman termed the ruling "just plain wrong" and said it is studying its appeal options.

Media shop RJ Palmer buys IDM International

[new york] Independent media shop RJ Palmer, New York, said it acquired IDM International, New York, with about $30 million in billings. Terms were not disclosed. RJ Palmer bills about $600 million. IDM's client roster includes Sherwin Williams, Time Inc. and the Wine Group. IDM principals Paul Isacsson, Gerri Donini and Maryanne Thompson will join RJ Palmer.

AOL breaks new ads; big review nears climax

[dulles, va.] AOL Time Warner's America Online breaks two 30-second TV spots late this week promoting anti-spam controls and virus-protection software that come with its AOL for Broadband service. In one, "Notes," a boy and girl share affectionate glances in a classroom until a note lands in the boy's lap advertising mortgage rates. "Tired of unwanted mail?" the voice-over asks. "Get the new AOL for Broadband with anti-spam and pop-up controls." Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles. Separately, BBDO faces sibling DDB Worldwide, New York, and independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., in final presentations for AOL's $100 million corporate brand assignment (including the launch of AOL 9.0) June 5 and 6. A decision is expected June 6.

`Hallmark' magazine for women in test

[kansas city, mo.] Hallmark Cards is testing on newsstands Hallmark, a women's magazine edited by Susan Wyland, the founding editor of Time Inc.'s Real Simple and produced in conjunction with New York custom publisher The Publishing Agency. About 100,000 copies of the "preview issue" went on sale this month at $3.95 ($2.95 at some Hallmark retail locations). Its 96 pages contain 27 ad pages. Non-Hallmark advertisers include L'Oreal and Apple Computer Co. Hallmark said it was likley to test another issue near the end of the year.

House reverses course on drug-legalization ads

[washington] Language allowing the White House to use anti-drug-use ad funds for ads that oppose drug legalization will be dropped from House legislation renewing the drug ad program, the House Republican managing the bill said last week. Controversy over the proposal had threatened to mire renewal of the anti-drug ad program, widely supported in the ad industry, in partisan political battling.

New roles for Bartley, Tarakajian at FCB, NY

[new york] Gene Bartley, North American chief operating officer for Interpublic's Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York, was named to the additional title of chairman-CEO of FCB's New York office, succeeding Jeff Tarakajian, who remains president of the office. FCB said the change will allow Mr. Tarakajian to focus on new business.

FYI . . .

Nike won the bidding war for high school basketball superstar LeBron James, signing the 18-year-old to a seven-year endorsement deal worth a reported $90 million. ... The California Lottery, working to reopen the troubled review for its five-year, $125 million ad contract, is negotiating to extend its contract with incumbent Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, Los Angeles, for an interim period. Its Grey contract expires at the end of May. ... A 100-person Chinese magazine industry delegation opted not to attend the Federation of International Publishers congress in Paris this week and China's 90-person ad delegation pulled out of June's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Both cited SARS concerns ... An award chosen by the jury presidents to honor innovation, called the Titanium Lion, will be added to this year's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival at the initiative of film and press & outdoor jury president Dan Wieden. ... The American Advertising Federation defended direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads after a Democratic presidential candidate, Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., in an Iowa appearance last week, called for the federal government to reinstate a ban on DTC ads. ... Cablevision Systems assigned the launch of its satellite service, currently named Rainbow DBS, to a consortium of shops within Interpublic. Earlier reports of $100 million in spending for the account were dismissed by executives familiar with the assignment, who said the total would be much less. See QwikFIND aao70z ... The California state senate last week approved toughest-in-the-nation anti-spam legislation that would block the sending of any unsolicited e-mail into the state unless consumers have a preexisting business relationship or specifically agree to get the mail (opt-in). In Washington, three House Republicans proposed legislation that would preempt state action on spam and require marketers to let consumers opt-out of receiving commercial e-mail.

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