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[Atlanta] Coca-Cola Co.'s Chief Marketing Officer, Chuck Fruit, is planning to leave the company as early as the end of the year, according to executives close to the marketer. Mr. Fruit, 58, couldn't be reached, but he had been planning to retire before he was elevated to the post in 2004, said executives. Up until May, when Coke elevated Mary Minnick to exec VP-president of marketing, strategy and innovation, Mr. Fruit was the highest ranking marketer for the beverage giant. "Chuck has not made any decisions as to when he plans to leave," said a Coca-Cola spokesman.

Army's Burnett extension draws fire from watchdog

[Washington D.C.] The U.S. Army's award of another extension to Leo Burnett's recruiting ad contract is drawing fire from a watchdog group, Project on Government Oversight. The Army announced July 7 that it will extend for six months Burnett's Army contract, which marks the fourth or fifth extension. Burnett initially won an up-to-four-year contract for Army advertising in July 2000. Potentially, the account is worth $1 billion over five years. Scott H. Amey, the group's general counsel, said multiple extensions are nothing more than an attempt to dodge competition, which "prevents taxpayers from getting the best deal." Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the delay has less to do with national security than a desire to ensure the new contract is bid properly.

NHL set to restart, but no deal for TV

[New York] After losing more than $400 million in advertising revenue from its corporate sponsors, as well as $60 million from its TV contract with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, the National Hockey League and its players reached a new collective bargaining agreement on July 13, ending a 301-day lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-2005 hockey season. The NHL became the first North American pro sports franchise to have an entire season canceled. So far, it has no TV deal.

P&G may add Fallon to agency roster

[Cincinnati] Procter & Gamble is talking to Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis, about adding the Publicis Groupe agency to its roster, said executives familiar with the matter. Potential assignments couldn't be determined. P&G, which wants to improve its creative, recently added Wieden & Kennedy to its roster for its Eukanuba pet food and an Ivory test project in Canada. Fallon performed well in a P&G system measuring creative output. Fallon and P&G representatives declined to comment

Nides leaves Burson for Morgan Stanley

[New York] After only eight months on the job, Burson-Marsteller CEO Thomas Nides is leaving the WPP Group-owned PR firm to take a senior position at Morgan Stanley. Mr. Nides previously worked with John Mack, the new CEO of the embattled financial services firm, both there and later at Credit Suisse First Boston. A press release from Burson said that the departing chief will work with WPP Exec VP Howard Paster during the transition period and search for a successor.

Coke taps Burnett for undisclosed work

[Atlanta] Coca-Cola Co. has tapped Publicis' Leo Burnett USA to handle an undisclosed assignment, according to executives familiar with the matter. A spokeswoman for Burnett, Chicago, confirmed the business but declined to elaborate. Coke didn't respond by press time.

CNBC, MSNBC see rough ride in upfront

[New York] This year's cable upfront was positive for Fox News Channel and CNN, but due to ratings declines CNBC and MSNBC had a tough time convincing advertisers to park their money. MSNBC lost 18,000 prime-time viewers in the crucial 25-54 demographic in the first half of 2005 compared with the same period last year, according to Nielsen. CNBC meanwhile lost 27,000 prime-time viewers in that same demographic. One buyer who deals with the two NBC-backed channels, said: "The people at MSNBC and CNBC didn't expect to be writing much upfront business based on the embarrassing audience levels." Fox and NBC did not wish to comment. CNN said it made double-digit revenue gains in the cable news upfront.

FYI ...

General Motors Corp. and The WB TV Network have signed up to use new TiVo technology that will see branded tags pop-up when viewers fast forward through ads. TiVo is offering advertisers the chance to replace TiVo generic ad tags with branded ones. ... Mforma, a global publisher and distributor of entertainment products for mobile phones, said it inked a formal deal with Attik, San Francisco, to handle creative for certain, undisclosed wireless partners. A spokeswoman for the private outfit said it doesn't have an agency of record. Attik said it will focus on print, interactive and point-of-purchase materials. Neither side revealed the deal's financial details. ... General Motors Corp.'s Goodwrench is allowing Nascar fans to vote online at through August for one of two exterior paint schemes of its sponsored 2006 Chevrolet Monte Carlo race car. Publicis' Chemistri, Troy, Mich., handles. ... Clive Sirkin, exec VP-group managing director of Leo Burnett Worldwide, Chicago, is leaving the agency to launch a consultancy, an agency spokeswoman confirmed. Mr. Sirkin, a 16-year vet of the agency, didn't return calls. ... Scandal-plagued basketball star Kobe Bryant made his first endorsement in two years, appearing in a black-and-white print ad for Nike in last week's Sports Illustrated. ... General Electric Co. released strong second quarter results July 15. But while the NBC Universal segment saw revenue for the quarter up 35% to $3.9 billion and operating profits of $979 million, prime time, the station group and TV production were down by 30% in the second quarter compared to the period last year. GE said it expects the outlook for third quarter to see revenue at NBCU to be down 20%, partly due to strong Olympic numbers last year.

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