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GM Hummer's $35 mil review down to 4 shops

General Motors Corp.'s new Hummer brand team narrowed the list of contenders for its estimated $35 million account to four from eight. Incumbent Pyro, Dallas, is a finalist along with McCann-Erickson Worldwide's Troy, Mich., office; Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.; and upstart Modernista!, Boston, founded earlier this year by two former Volkswagen creatives at Arnold Communications. GM acquired the rights to Hummer last year. Two of the finalists already handle GM brands -- McCann has Buick and Martin has Saab. Presentations are next month.

`Priceless' parody ad lands Nader in court

MasterCard International is suing Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader over his latest campaign spot, a parody of MasterCard's "Priceless" campaign. MasterCard filed suit against Mr. Nader Aug. 16 in U.S. District Court in New York, seeking $5 million in damages and an injunction to stop the ad. The "Priceless Truth" ad, created by North Woods Advertising, Minneapolis, features footage of the Republican and Democratic tickets with phrases such as "Promises to special interest groups: $10 billion" and "Finding out the truth: Priceless." It parodies the 3-year-old "Priceless" effort from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York. That campaign features vignettes showing the price of several items and their "priceless" emotional benefits. " `Priceless' is a very valuable asset . . . We're very concerned with consumer confusion," said Larry Flanagan, senior VP-marketing at MasterCard. In a statement, Mr. Nader called the suit "an absurd and clumsy abuse of corporate power in an attempt to suppress political speech," and claimed the ad is both a parody and fair political speech that didn't infringe on the "Priceless" copyright. "They should lighten up. They're taking their name `Master' too seriously. This is America," the candidate said. MasterCard has previously sought to stop parody ads aired by NBC and Home Box Office. NBC pulled its ad after the complaint. MasterCard sued HBO last year over a spot for its series "Arliss," and that suit is still pending.

WPP and Grey boast profitable periods

WPP Group, London, reported pre-tax profit for the first half rose 22% over a year ago to $216.2 million. Revenue climbed 19% to $1.9 billion. WPP also said net new-business rose 13% to $1.7 billion for the first six months. WPP is the parent of J. Walter Thompson Co. and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide; in May, WPP agreed to buy Young & Rubicam. Separately, Grey Global Group, New York, had net income of $5.7 million for the second quarter, vs. a loss of $6.6 million for the same period in 1999. Billings rose 15% to $2 billion.

Troubled United seeks image lift with new ad

United Airlines on Aug. 16 launched a campaign to bolster its image as the carrier suffers from traveler frustration due to widespread flight delays and cancellations. The page ad features a quote by Chairman Jim Goodwin -- "This isn't getting us where we want to go " -- and a promise to eliminate "thousands of flights before they get published" to minimize traveler displeasure. The ad broke in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, as well as regional publications in the key markets of Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

TV show returns award over struck strike remark

John Wells, executive producer of "The West Wing," returned the Family Friendly Award given recently to the NBC show, after remarks from Allison Janney, one of the show's stars, were deleted from the CBS awards broadcast. At the end of Ms. Janney's speech earlier this month, she implored ad industry executives to end the commercial actors strike by the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. The awards were given by the Family Friendly Programming Forum, created by a group of about 40 advertisers. In a statement, Mr. Wells said his show "is not interested in an award from an organization that supports censorship of free speech." Mr. Wells is president of the Writers Guild of America West.

McCann in San Francisco to trim `A&L' from name

McCann-Erickson/A&L will phase out the "A&L" in its name over a six-month period, said Barrie Hedge, chairman of the San Francisco shop. The "A&L" referred to Anderson & Lembke, which McCann-Erickson Worldwide merged into its own San Francisco office more than a year ago. Mr. Hedge confirmed that the shift to McCann-Erickson was disseminated internally to employees about a month ago. The agency counts Microsoft Corp. as one of its primary clients.

Coke is 1st corp. partner of Bronner's UPromise

Coca-Cola Co. signed a letter of intent to be the first corporate partner of UPromise, a new online network designed to help families save money for their children's college educations. Although the details of the letter of intent weren't disclosed, Coca-Cola said the deal is part of an effort to deepen consumers' relationship with its brands. UPromise acts like a loyalty program through which Coca-Cola will put 3% to 5% of a consumer's purchase into a tax-free college savings account managed by financial institutions such as Fidelity Investments and Merrill Lynch & Co. UPromise was established in January by Michael Bronner, the founder of Digitas, Boston. It plans to launch its consumer Web site this fall or winter.

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