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R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. last week dodged a bullet when the Federal Trade Commission voted not to ban Joe Camel, but DDB Needham Worldwide took a direct hit when longtime patron Seagram Co. put $37 million in global billings up for review.

Anti-tobacco groups for years have claimed controversial cartoon character Joe Camel is a marketing ploy that targets children. But the hip camel's woes may not be over. President Clinton will nominate his first FTC member before yearend, and it's a good bet that person will reverse the balance of power and in the process put ol' Joe in peril of being driven into the marketing desert.

In the spirits world, Seagram Co., upset with DDB Needham's handling of the global Chivas Regal scotch account, unceremoniously cut loose its agency of 32 years. Separately, President Edgar Bronfman told shareholders that reporters are fueling unwarranted talk of a takeover of Time Warner.

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