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Give them a real bargain and the media elite will go koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs.

Coming on the heels of Kellogg's and Post's aggressive retail pricing moves, TV news producers and newspaper editors found General Mills' re-entry into the burgeoning cereal price war too magically delicious a story to ignore.

Or maybe it's just that General Mills brands like Kix, Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms have left such an indelible impression on grown-up baby-boomer media pundits that Trix really are not just for kids.

Whatever the reason, Gen-eral Mills' announcement produced two scoops of media pay dirt, making it the top SPINdex story of last week.

Business journalists devoted more than 13,000 words of copy in 25 major daily newspaper articles and 7.5 minutes of national airtime on 15 network TV newscasts for a SPINdex score of 578.

With Quaker Oats Co. joining the battle late last week, SPINdex could only wonder if that was in fact gunfire we were beginning to hear, or merely the distant sounds of snap, crackle and pop.

Poor Michael Jordan. The Westinghouse chief shells out billions for Infinity Broadcasting, overnight creating the most massive broadcasting company ever, and all he can muster is a second place SPINdex finish for the week.

Still, the Infinity deal generated an impressive SPINdex of 412 and single-handedly resuscitated the moribund image of radio, making it seem, if only for the moment, sexier than the Internet.

With such heavy media competition last week, even Campbell's unveiling of 19 new soup brands generated only a third-place finish and a SPINdex score of 274, while news of the national campaign behind the rollout of Dunkin' Donuts' line of bagels ranked fourth with a score of 103.

Using Medialink PR Research's proprietary method for valuing editorial coverage in a panel of influential media outlets, SPINdex assigns an index value to the ability of an event to generate mass societal spin. The scores reflect both the number of stories and how dominantly each was played.

But SPINdex's favorite marketing story of the week was Phil Sokolof's newspaper ad campaign attacking Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. for price-gouging for their cholesterol-lowering drug brands.

SPINdex is a sucker for philanthropic millionaire public-health advocates who are willing to dig deep into their own pockets just to settle the score with powerful pharmaceutical marketers that are gouging America. Just who do these guys think they are anyway, pre-price war cereal marketers?

Joe Mandese is senior VP of Myers Reports. Mark Weiner is VP of Medialink PR Research.

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