The "advertainment" space could be due for increased competition after a flurry of deals that brought new investments into two leading talent agencies and a branded-entertainment shop. Canadian holding company MDC Partners acquired a minority stake in Banjo Strategic Entertainment, a San Francisco company that produces branded-entertainment content. The deal came within days of news that private-equity firms Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital had agreed to acquire a minority stake in talent-management company the Firm and that buyout firm Forstmann Little & Co. had agreed to buy independent talent agency International Management Group. Terms for none of the deals were disclosed.
VW may shrink media-shop roster
Volkswagen AG is thinking of consolidating its estimated $800 million global media account, maybe at a single agency, said a spokesman. The German automaker is looking at ways to be more efficient and save money around the world, he added. VW's financial situation has declined in the past year; it established its ForMotion program a few months ago to analyze all global activities based on stringent economic criteria. Havas' Media Planning Group handles VW of America's media account and Grey Global Group's MediaCom handles the automaker in most markets abroad. Grey is being acquired by WPP Group, Ford Motor Co.'s agency, but apparently it's VW's financial concerns, not conflict issues, which sparked its consideration to consolidate media buying. Adage.com QwikFIND aaq01y
Billionaire Soros stars in Bush-bash
Billionaire financier George Soros, a major behind-the-scenes backer of anti-George Bush efforts, will step into a more personal role, appearing in a $2 million advertising, Internet and direct-mail campaign against the President. The campaign launched with a two-page ad in the Sep. 29 Wall Street Journal from Fenton Communications, Washington. The ad will appear in local papers when Mr. Soros speaks in 12 cities. Mr. Soros also launched an Internet effort (georgesoros.com) from Donor Digital, San Francisco and will mail 2 million copies of a brochure to voters in several states. Mr. Soros said his main target is disenchanted Republicans.
Belo sharpens ax in Dallas circ scandal
Belo Corp. will cut 250 jobs and give no salary raises or bonuses to key executives in the wake of a circulation-overstatement scandal at its Dallas Morning News newspaper. The majority of the job cuts are coming from operations in Belo's home base of Dallas-Fort Worth. In a conference call with analysts, Belo Chairman-CEO Robert Decherd said the company has finished its investigation into the circulation situation and Morning News circulation for the six months ended Sept. 30 will fall 5.1% from the previous year and Sunday circulation 11.9%. That's about the same 5% daily and 11.5% Sunday reductions the company estimated when it announced the overstatement in August. Mr. Decherd said the company found no circulation irregularities at its other newspapers. Adage.com QwikFIND aaq01i
Spam suits take aim at scammers
In a move that could embolden other marketers, Amazon.com and Microsoft Corp. took advantage of new anti-spam laws to file lawsuits against rogue spammers. The two companies filed several lawsuits alleging a variety of "spoofing" and "phishing" scams using Amazon.com's domain name. Spoofing is using a forged e-mail address and phishing is a term for stealing credit card and other financial information online. Both companies sued Gold Disk Canada in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging it misused Microsoft's MSN Hotmail services and forged the name of Amazon.com. Amazon filed three other complaints in King County Superior Court in Seattle against unidentified defendants alleging phishing against its customers and Microsoft filed a separate suit against Leonid Radvinsky and his Chicago businesses Activsoft and Cybertania, alleging they sent millions of deceptive e-mail messages to MSN Hotmail customers, including some falsely labeled as coming from Amazon.com.
AAF will go online for 100th anniversary
The American Advertising Federation will launch a Web site and a slate of activities as part of the group's 100th anniversary next year. The site will be devoted to the AAF's Advertising Hall of Fame. The anniversary celebration will include events at the local level with 200 advertising clubs and federations and will end in a gala at the AAF National Conference 2005 in Nashville, June 4 through 7.