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[Mountain View, Calif.] Just three months after going public, Google has been talking with a few large general advertising agencies, several industry executives have confirmed. A Google representative declined to comment on whether the company is conducting a review. Hiring a traditional ad firm would indicate a major break with Google's past methods of brand development. In lieu of advertising, the company relied on word-of-mouth brand development and the strengths of its search engine. But bringing in either a hot creative shop or a large network with global reach would likely lead to bigger media buys.

Coca-Cola claims C2 is still the real thing

[Atlanta] Coca-Cola Co. has denied speculation that its C2 brand is all but dead, in spite of reports of weak sales for the mid-calorie cola. "There will be substantial marketing support behind C2 in 2005," a company spokeswoman said. Executives close to the marketer said no new creative is planned for development, but that existing creative, from WPP Group's Berlin Cameron Partners, New York, will continue to run. Coke declined to comment further. Chairman-CEO E. Neville Isdell told analysts on Oct. 22 that he expected pricing tweaks to begin showing benefits by the fourth quarter.

Feds near completion of product-placement probe

[Washington D.C.] The Federal Trade Commission confirmed that it would conclude its review of product placement in the next few weeks. The FTC's associate director for advertising practices, Mary Engle, said she expected the yearlong inquiry to conclude "before winter." Separately, the Federal Communications Commission has also told executives familiar with its inquiry that the issue is currently at the top of the pile and that it too would report soon. The FCC did not immediately return calls for comment. The government has been examining the issue since consumer body Commercial Alert lodged a complaint in October 2003. (See QwikFIND aaq08y)

Weight Watchers exec exits amid shop pitch

[WOODBURY, N.Y.] While in the middle of an agency review, Weight Watchers International has lost its head of marketing. Eliot Glazer, VP-marketing for Weight Watchers North America, resigned last week "to pursue other professional opportunities," a spokeswoman said, adding that the departure "will not affect the review." Miriam Jordan Kene, chief brand officer, will take over Mr. Glazer's duties until a successor is named. Weight Watchers is expected to make a decision in late November about which creative shop will replace incumbent The Seiden Group, New York, which is not participating.

Viacom records loss for third quarter

[New York] Viacom posted a loss of $487.6 million in the third quarter, in spite of good results on its TV units, due to a $1.5 billion write-down related to its spinoff of the Blockbuster video chain. Revenue was up 4%, to $5.5 billion, with ad revenue up 6%, to $3.1 billion. Ad revenue was up 4% at the TV division, which includes the CBS and UPN networks, and operating income was up 7%, to $388.5 million. Cable networks' operating income grew by 13%, to $690.6 million, with ad revenue up 17% at MTV Networks. However, the radio unit performed poorly, with operating income down 17%. In a conference call with analysts, Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves said the radio unit would receive additional investment and marketing attention.

Two Miami Hispanic shops set to merge

[Miami] Year-old Hispanic agency Machado Garcia-Serra Publicidad, Miami, is merging with another Latin shop, IAC Group, Miami. It will have combined billings of $45 million and 40 staff, and will keep the name Machado Garcia-Serra Publicidad. It will handle Southeast Toyota dealers, Publix Super Markets, Bell South's Yellow Pages and projects for Procter & Gamble Co. Manuel Machado, who is also president of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, will be CEO and co-chairman with Al Garcia Serra. IAC's Chairman-CEO Ana Maria Fernandez Haar will be chairman emeritus.See QwikFIND aaq09a

Mazda marketing execs switch their positions

[Irvine, Ca.] Mazda North American Operations named Don Romano VP-marketing from western regional general manager. He succeeds Eric Johnston, who had held the post since June 2003. Mr. Johnston replaces Mr. Romano in the regional post. The changes are effective Dec. 1. Mazda said the changes will give each man professional growth while helping boost Mazda's U.S. awareness and sales.

Diageo narrows $37 mil Smirnoff review to three

[London] Spirits marketer Diageo has narrowed an estimated $37 million global review for its Smirnoff Ice "malternative" drink to three agencies, according to an executive familiar with the review. The finalists include: J. Walter Thompson, London, part of WPP Group; Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London; and Grey Global Group's Grey, Toronto. Mother, London, has dropped out of the review. A Diageo spokeswoman didn't have a comment by press time.

Bush ad-edit snafu is caught on tape

[Washington D.C.] The Bush/Cheney camp re-edited an ad after it was revealed the spot had been digitally altered to add more soldiers to an audience shot. In a spot called "Whatever it takes," the Kerry camp called the editing an example of the Bush campaign's "consistently dishonest" advertising. Mark McKinnon, head of the Bush Maverick Media ad team, blamed an error by an editor told to crop a picture of the president speaking to soldiers to focus on soldiers that hadn't been caught on camera.

FYI . . .

PepsiCo has signed Jennifer Lopez to star with David Beckham and Beyonce in an international TV spot. The spot is said to cost upward of $20 million and reportedly will air in the U.S. during the 2005 Super Bowl; executives close to Pepsi said it won't air during the game. A PepsiCo spokeswoman declined to confirm plans. ... Snowmobile manufacturer Polaris, Medina, Minn., hired Havas' McKinney & Silver to handle its estimated $10 million ad and media buying and planning account, replacing Omnicom's Martin-Williams, Minneapolis.

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