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New `Mad'-ness in race for prez

Just what we need -- another presidential candidate with a goofy smile. While the GOP was whooping it up in Philly, another contender was throwing his hat into the ring in Sonoma. Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman launched his campaign at a National Hot Rod Association race Aug. 4. Alfred's running (or driving) mate: Dale Creasy Jr., who races a General Motors Corp. Pontiac Firebird graced with a mug shot of the Mad man on the hood. Said the driver about the Time Warner character's candidacy: "I'm happy to support Alfred's run for office mainly because I feel sorry for him." Neuman reportedly said "political campaigns are for when voters find out what politicians stand for and politicians find out what voters will fall for." And, yes, licensed merchandise will be sold.

No joy of Gallo wine for PepsiCo

Heard on the grapevine: E&J Gallo Winery, with legendary chairman Ernest Gallo now 91 years old, is poised to sell the family biz to PepsiCo. But wait. Not so, says Kimberly Charles, a spokeswoman for Gallo. "It's funny that keeps coming up," she says, adding the company in the past had indeed talked with a soda giant -- Coke. The family, however, has a succession plan in place, and it involves second-generation Gallos, among them Robert, who's in charge of production, taking over and the third generation, with grandchildren such as Gina, who's become the spokeswoman for Gallo of Sonoma, becoming directors. Details of the plan, however, won't be made public until the passing of Ernest.

Anti-drug adman into heavy medal

Jim Burke, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, last week received the country's top honor for a civilian, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Burke was nominated by White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey, but was never told until it was confirmed he would receive the honor. "People worked assiduously and quite dishonestly" to bring this about, Burke joked at a reception held in his honor. Getting serious, Burke said he was excited about the award but more so that the gov't-industry partnership in the anti-drug ad campaign "will be a model" for similar activities on other issues. The Partnership oversees creative for the anti-drug ad effort.

An appetite for Wendy's

Robert Levite, new VP-marketing at Wendy's International (AA, Aug. 7), expects little to change with his new job. And that extends to geography. Levite, previously SVP at Wendy's agency Bates Worldwide, notes he can see his old office from the window of his new office. Levite's strategy will be "just to keep the ship on course" since the fast-feeder is doing very well, as Ad Age noted last week, dubbing Wendy's a "Brand in Demand." Levite says his biggest frustration is the actors strike. "When your founder [Dave Thomas, star of Wendy's spots for 11 years] is a SAG member, you can't put him in ads," Levite explains. Current ads and half of the October flight were in the can before the strike. "Come December, we're going to have a problem, but we'll manage," Levite says. "Hopefully, it will be resolved soon."

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