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Barbie starred in a tampon commercial, and she's quite upset. OK, Barbie's all smiles, but her handlers at Mattel threaten legal action. It seems Australian tampon seller Cottons Australia and agency Mattingly & Partners ran a spot that showed the doll while a voice-over pitched a tampon for women "who are sick of being treated like a Barbie doll" in rivals' ads. "It was a Ruffle Fun Barbie and was damaging and disparaging to the brand," says Kate Kavanagh, Barbie's local marketing manager. Mattingly Group Account Director Richard Arbon says the Barbie spot was so successful that Cottons had a hard time meeting demand. Nevertheless, the client subbed the spot with one featuring a generic doll.

It's been a year since Procter & Gamble and Paramount became production partners, rocking the agency world. Get set to rock some more. Coming up soon on CBS is "The Cube," a comedy about life at a Manhattan ad agency. Did P&G ad boss Ross Love turn script writer? "We had no creative input on this; it was purely coincidental," says a P&G spokeswoman. Other P&G/Paramount deals: "Viper" and "Real TV" are going into syndication, "Home Court" is on NBC, "Almost Perfect" is on CBS and another network show has been sold for next season.

Helene Curtis Industries has been mum since saying two weeks ago it is talking with one or more secret suitors. But word in the investor community and personal-care trade is Johnson & Johnson has walked while Unilever's continued interest hinges on the ability of one personal-care exec, who shall go unnamed, to convince the board Curtis would be a good buy. Gillette and Helene's Chicago neighbor, Sara Lee, also may be taking a look.

International Data Group in April stages what IDG prez Kelly Conlin claims is the first virtual trade show. Interact '96, sponsored by Stratus Computer and InfoWorld, will be a Web-only conference and trade show connecting business computer customers and vendors. "It's a prototype of what a trade show of the future might look like," Mr. Conlin says. We can't wait to see the virtual tchotchkes the exhibitors will be handing out.

Was this ambush marketing by Wal-Mart? The Timex alarm clocks we saw on the shelf had "Wal-Mart Everyday Low Price" tags of $11.73. One problem: We were at Target. The everyday not-as-low price there is $11.99.... Oldsmobile marketing exec Bob Jarboe is back doing Olds' centennial promotion (AA, Jan. 29), leaving son Greg Jarboe, PR chief at Ziff-Davis, to note: "What can I say? It is my father's Oldsmobile.".... BBDO placed but didn't have anything else to do with last week's newspaper ads proclaiming Apple's bright prospects (e-mail: [email protected]). Apple turned down an idea from BBDO in favor of inspiring words from CEO Michael Spindler.

Compiled by Bradley Johnson with news from Keith J. Kelly, Geoffrey Lee Martin and Pat Sloan.

Got an Adage? Tell Brad by phone, (213) 651-3710, ext. 111; fax, (213) 655-8157; or email, [email protected]

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