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[Seattle] RealNetworks is preparing to step up its marketing battle against Apple's iTunes music store by calling an agency review. RealNetworks competes against iTunes' 99¢ per song model with its subscription-based Rhapsody music service. Although RealNetworks spent $2.6 million for the first half of 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence, the size of the account up for grabs is said to range from $20 million to $60 million. Incumbent Publicis West was invited to participate. A decision is expected in January. RealNetworks executives did not return calls and e-mails by press time.

Martha Stewart to roll `Blueprint' next spring

[New York] Martha Stewart's newest magazine, which her company has so far kept under wraps as it proceeds with development and exploring advertiser interest, is expected to be named Blueprint and will cater to 30-somethings and their interest in their first homes. Other content will include lifestyle components like entertaining, fashion, culture and travel. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which expects initial circulation of 200,000 to 250,000, is gearing up for a spring introduction of at least a test issue, most likely in May. The company said it believes there is an opportunity in the 30-something lifestyle category but declined to discuss specifics.

Online ad revenue hits record $3.1B for Q3

[New York] Online advertising revenue hit $3.1 billion for the third quarter of 2005, making it the highest quarter ever reported, said the Interactive Advertising Bureau in its quarterly ad revenue report. The record revenue represents a 34% increase over the 2004 third-quarter total of $2.3 billion. Based on historical data, the report said, the annual revenue for 2005 could well exceed $12 billion. IAB sponsors the report, which is conducted independently by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Sidney Frank taps Devito/Verdi for tequila

[New Rochelle, N.Y.] Sidney Frank Importing Co. has named independent DeVito/Verdi, New York, agency for an anticipated $6 million to $8 million TV push starting next year for its ultra-premium Tequila Coraz¢n de Agave. DeVito/Verdi previously handled Grey Goose Vodka which was sold to Bacardi.

McDonald's giving away $22M in holiday gift cards

[Oak Brook, Ill.] Eager to boost holiday sales, McDonald's Corp. is giving away $22 million in $1 gift cards to consumers nationwide over the holiday season. Beginning Nov. 29, the fast-food giant will hand out five million of the cards to Southwest Airlines customers at 61 airports, nine million in cards at domestic McDonald's restaurants with purchase of certain items and eight million cards through an American Express consumer mailing.

Amway parent taps Element 79 for account

[Ada, Mich.] Alticor, the parent of Amway Corp. and Quixtar, has tapped Omnicom Group's Element 79 Partners, Chicago, to handle a corporate branding effort, the company said. Alticor, which has done little advertising historically, had been talking to a number of Midwestern agencies in recent months.

Nissan exec McNabb resigns global sales post

[Gardena, Calif.] Mark McNabb, 44, who joined Nissan North America in 1986, resigned last week, effective immediately, a spokeswoman confirmed. Mr. McNabb was a rising star at the automaker, recently promoted to the global post at parent Nissan Motor Co. as VP-sales and marketing for general overseas markets from VP-general manager of Nissan Division in North America. Formerly VP-general manager of Nissan Division here, he had been working in Tokyo, but hadn't yet moved his family, said an executive close to the matter. When reached at his home and asked about his next move, Mr. McNabb replied: "I have no plans at this point," citing "personal reasons" for his decision.

Gatorade to launch light-flavored Rain line

[Chicago] PepsiCo's Gatorade unit is planning a lighter flavored line called Gatorade Rain, according to a speech made by Indra Nooyi, president-chief financial officer of PepsiCo. She said the "lower aftertaste flavor profile combined with imagery of playing sports in the summertime rain will make this another strong entry into the Gatorade flavor portfolio."

Federated launches $1M promotion for gift cards

[Cincinnati] Federated Department Stores launched a $1 million gift-card promotion on Black Friday and even tapped publicity-hound Donald Trump to raise buzz around the one-day giveaway. The promotion included a TV spot featuring Mr. Trump.

Bollore, WPP, Hellman team up for Aegis buy

[New York] At press time on Nov. 23, the creation of a consortium that will bid for London-based Aegis Group was a possibility with the approach of the Nov. 25 "put up or shut up" deadline for WPP Group and partner private-equity firm Hellman & Friedman. A knowledgeable executive said the scenario under discussion has Vincent Bollore, Havas chairman and Aegis' largest shareholder with 24.99%, teaming with WPP Group and Hellman & Friedman to make an offer for all of Aegis. For developments, See

FYI ...

Chris Thomas, 43, has been appointed chairman-CEO, Omnicom Group's BBDO Asia. He was previously CEO of BBDO's Proximity, London and will now be responsible for BBDO and Proximity agencies across Asia. ... PepsiCo has agreed to buy Stacy's Pita Chip Co., the top-selling maker of pita chips with 2005 sales estimated at roughly $60 million. Stacy's, based in Randolph, Mass., will operate as a separate unit and report to Frito-Lay North America Chairman-CEO Irene Rosenfeld.

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