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[Leuven, Belgium] Interbrew has consolidated its estimated $200 million global media duties with Interpublic Group of Cos. and Publicis Starcom Motive in London, eliminating nine shops from its roster. Universal McCann is expected to handle more than 75% of the planning and buying. Starcom, which already handles some Interbrew business in the U.K. also handles media planning and buying for No. 2 brewer SABMiller but only in the U.S., and will work with Interbrew in other countries. Interbrew is the world's third largest brewer, but it is merging with No. 5 AmBev to form the world's leading beer marketer, supplanting Anheuser-Busch Cos. A deal is expected to close at the end of the year.

Nissan media audit to go to Media Performance Monitor

[Gardena, Calif.] Steven Wilhite, VP-marketing at Nissan North America, said the automaker is in talks with one undisclosed agency to handle its media audit. According to executives close to the talks, Media Peformance Monitor America, Tarrytown, New York, is expected to be awarded the account. Nissan spends approximately $1 billion in measured media. John Billets, chairman of MPMA, would not comment.

Turner drops rates for `Sex and the City' reruns

[New York] Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, facing a weak second-quarter scatter market, is offering reduced rates for its cleaned up re-airing of HBO series "Sex and the City," TelevisionWeek reports. The cable network originally was asking for deals in the $30 million to $50 million range last fall, but now has cut several $5 million deals. Turner has revised its advertising projection to take in between $80 million and $100 million for the 15 months that TBS has an exclusive window for the show, according to media buying and selling executives. Originally, Turner was targeting as much as $140 million in total for the series from primarily fouradvertisers. The show makes its debut on TBS in June.

H&M seeks media agencies for planned U.S. expansion

[New York] Clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz is contacting media agencies about its $4 million account as it seeks to expand in the U.S. One executive familiar with the situation said the move was part of a mandated review from Swedish headquarters. H&M did not return calls by press time. The retail chain spent $3 million in measured media in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. A decision is expected by the end of this month. The current media agency is New York independent Pedone & Partners.

Unilever kicks off $10M effort for Carb Options

[Englewood Cliffs, N.J.] Unilever Bestfoods this week begins an estimated $10 million TV effort to support its new Carb Options umbrella brand, under which it plans to launch an additional 14 items later this month. The portfolio of low-carb versions of Unilever's top brands including Wishbone and Skippy was introduced in January with a $10 million print and outdoor campaign from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, which also handles the new TV ad touting the brand's "Taste you can count on" theme. The second wave of products includes Lipton soups and side dishes as well as a first-ever ketchup under the Hellmann's brand. Meanwhile, Kraft Foods is likewise extending its own low-carb banner, CarbWell, with the addition of Post cereal bars to its existing salad dressings and BBQ sauce. Other categories are expected to follow.

Old Navy cuts two from agency review

[San Francisco] Gap Inc.'s discount retailer Old Navy has eliminated two of five agencies competing to win its $150 million creative advertising account, said Old Navy spokesman Jonathan Finn. Three agencies, Havas' Euro RSCG MVBMS, New York, WPP's J. Walter Thompson, New York, and Interpublic's Deutsch, Los Angeles, are continuing to the next phase. No longer in the running are WPP's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, and Havas' Arnold, Boston. The three finalists will be briefed on March 22 and 23, according to knowledgeable executives. Mr. Finn would not comment, but did say that a final decision is expected on the review in mid April. The review began in early February. See QwikFIND aap45y

HP seeks to consolidate direct marketing business

[Palo Alto, Calif.] Hewlett-Packard Co. is in the process of consolidating its direct marketing accounts currently held by hundreds of firms in over a hundred nations. "We are looking at our vendors around the world," said Gary Elliott, VP-global brand and marketing communications, adding the process is not a pitch but is being reviewed internally. HP's agencies are Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for branding and Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney for transactional advertising. Both are in San Francisco. Spending was not disclosed.

Mitsubishi taps Clemenger for $38M Australian acc't

[Sydney] Mitsubishi Motors has appointed Clemenger BBDO, Sydney, in which Omnicom Group holds a 46% stake, to handle its estimated $38 million account in Australia after a pitch against WPP's Young & Rubicam, Sydney, the incumbent, and Interpublic's Lowe Hunt, Sydney. BBDO Worldwide is the global network for Daimler Chrysler, which holds a controlling interest in Mitsubishi. In the U.S., Interpublic's Deutsch, New York, is Mitsubishi's agency.

FYI ...

MDC Partners, the Canadian marketing communications company, has purchased 20% of New York City independent Cliff Freeman & Partners. See QwikFIND aap45t ... Publicis Groupe confirmed that it has found a successor to John Perriss, Zenith Optimedia Group CEO who is leaving the company. The company has refused to name that successor, though North American CEO Rich Hamilton is widely tipped to take over the post. See QwikFIND aap45e ... Red Lobster has chosen independent Richards Group, Dallas, to handle its $80 million to $100 million account. The Darden Restaurants chain awarded the business following a shootout with Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, which also handles Darden's Olive Garden, and six-year incumbent Havas' Euro RSCG Tatham Partners, Chicago. See QwikFIND aap45l ... Dave Weber joined Dentsu's Colby & Partners in the new post of exec VP-general manager on American Suzuki Motor Corp.'s account. Mr. Weber said his six-month contract as a consultant to Suzuki ended in late February. ... Boutique agency Moss Dragoti is being folded into DDB, New York, part of Omnicom Group, along with its main client, car rental firm Hertz, a spokeswoman confirmed last week. Agency founders Charlie Moss and Stan Dragoti will also join DDB, along with their 18 staff. Titles have not yet been determined.

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