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[New York] A deal is imminent between Google and AOL at press time. Now that Microsoft has dropped out of negotiations, Google is expected to purchase a 5% stake in AOL in a deal worth $1 billion. Google said it was not disputing reports about this impending deal. The pact involves Google remaining as the search engine for AOL and AOL getting the exclusive right to sell other types of advertising, such as banner ads on Google. Both deals are revenue-sharing agreements. See QwikFIND aar24z

NBC says it's 90% toward Olympics goal

[New York] NBC is 90% toward its Olympics sales goal of $900 million, according to network executives. Media buyers, however, suggest it's closer to 80% to 85%. "A lot of people don't realize the business we've written in the past month," said Peter Lazarus, senior VP-sports and Olympics sales and marketing for NBC. He also acknowledges the network could hold some inventory to help the net's regular-season ratings shortfalls. According to buyers, pricing is relatively flat over two years ago, with the network asking about $650,000 to $700,000 for a prime-time 30-second spot.

Ford back in gay mags; AFA threatens again

[Dearborn, Mich.] Ford Motor Co. is facing a second threatened boycott by the ultra-conservative American Family Association after the automaker said last week it would resume advertising in gay magazines. The AFA, which has had at least one major 2005 defeat in a similar boycott against Procter & Gamble Co., accused Ford of reneging on an interim settlement with the group. Ford appeared cranky about AFA's release in early December indicating its Jaguar and Land Rover brands had agreed to halt gay-targeted ads after the two sides met. "Only Ford Motor Company speaks for Ford Motor Company. Any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect," the automaker said in a statement.

BMW moves $160M media-buying to GSD&M

[Woodcliff Lake, N.J.] BMW of North America is moving the bulk of its $160 million media-buying account-including national and local broadcast duties-to GSD&M, according to executives familiar with the situation. The work has been handled by Publicis Groupe's Optimedia, New York. GSD&M, part of the Omnicom Group, won the automaker's national creative and media-planning business last month, following a review. A BMW spokeswoman didn't return calls; agency representatives referred calls to the client.

GE puts NBC unit in Comstock's hands

[New York] At a crucial time when NBC is trying to reverse its troubles, it has tapped Beth Comstock, a rising star at parent company General Electric Co. to be president of NBC Universal digital media and market development, an operational role leading what most consider the NBC division with the highest growth potential. Ms. Comstock, former chief marketing officer at GE, will oversee digital media, strategic marketing, television research, television advertising and promotion and communications. See QwikFIND aar24q

After layoffs, Time Inc. reorg done-for now

[New York] Now that Time Inc. has laid off 105 people and named Nora McAniff and John Squires co-chief operating officers, staffers who still have jobs can relax-for the moment. Asked whether last week's bloodletting would be the last, Chairwoman-CEO Ann S. Moore said she had completed her reorganization: "Now you have to ask that question of Nora and John." Meanwhile, outsiders are questioning whether the new team at the top will be able to match the expertise and connections of those who departed, like Jack Haire. Time Inc. offered Mr. Haire an undisclosed new post as it shuffled him out of his post atop corporate sales and marketing, but he said no. See QwikFIND aar24n

MTV, 'BusinessWeek' make major staff cuts

[New York] MTV Networks trimmed its TV-production and business-operation staff by 100 last week in order to bulk up its digital-media unit, a priority for the company in 2006. The job cuts included production staff for the music group's MTV and VH1 networks and, outside the music group, the strategic-services division, which includes business operations and human resources. BusinessWeek also laid off some 60 people from the editorial, ad sales, circulation and production departments as it shuttered its Europe and Asia editions. The move mostly affects oversees workers, but it's not clear exactly what positions were eliminated.

Hispanic eating habits becoming more 'American'

[Port Washington, N.Y.] Hispanics are eating more convenience and quick foods with an "American" palate as they become acculturated, according to a fresh year-long study from NPD Group. Among the foods gaining popularity among Hispanic consumers are eggs, tea, chips, potatoes and frozen foods. Conversely, leaf salads, fresh vegetables, fruit juice, milk, tortillas and fresh fruit are foods becoming less popular as these consumers cook less from scratch.

Bacardi picks Y&R to handle global biz

[Bermuda] Bacardi last week tapped WPP Group's Y&R, London and New York, to handle the global $160 million advertising account for its flagship rum. Y&R prevailed in a review over Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, New York and London; Publicis' Fallon Worldwide, London and Minneapolis; and independent David and Goliath, Los Angeles. The review was launched this fall at the behest of new CEO Andreas Gembler. See AdAge QwikFIND aar24s

Starwood taps MediaVest for $50M media account

[New York] Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the world's third largest hotel chain, tapped Publicis' MediaVest, New York, to handle its $50 million-plus media account, said executives familiar with the situation. Interpublic's Deutsch, New York-which continues to handle creative for Starwood's Sheraton and Westin brands-was the incumbent.

A-B taps Peterson Milla for Budweiser Select work

[St. Louis] Anheuser-Busch has tapped Peterson Milla Hooks, Minneapolis, to work on its Budweiser Select brand, according to executives familiar with the matter. Until now the bulk of work has been handled by Omnicom's DDB Worldwide, Chicago. A-B has been tinkering with the brew's marketing ever since it was launched this past spring. Bud Select has carved out a 1.6% share of supermarket beer sales, according to figures from Information Resources Inc.

FYI ...

Fallon Worldwide is spinning off its small Fallon Brand Consulting unit effective early next year, the agency confirmed. ... Internet service provider EarthLink has put its $50 million creative account into review. Incumbent Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, is not defending the business.

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