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Penney invites 5 agencies to pitch $300 mil account

J.C. Penney Co. invited five agencies to pitch its $200 million to $300 million account (AA, Jan. 10). They are New York shops BBDO Worldwide, DDB Worldwide, McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Saatchi & Saatchi, plus an agency representing True North Communications, Chicago. The True North agency was invited in the place of incumbent Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas, a True North shop that isn't participating. Penney will continue to handle newspaper inserts in-house. Temerlin remains agency for Penney's $14 million St. John's Bay apparel account. Another Penney's store brand, Arizona, is keeping its $20 million account at DDB's Dallas office.

Publicis confirms it will acquire Frankel

Publicis, Paris, confirmed it will buy marketing services agency Frankel, Chicago, as expected (AA, Jan. 3). Terms weren't disclosed, but the transaction has been estimated at $170 million or more. Publicis Chairman-CEO Maurice Levy said the deal gives Frankel capital and global reach to help it grow, while Publicis gains from Frankel's "innovative and distinct brand marketing tools." The acquisition heightens Publicis' profile in the U.S., where it already realizes 25% of its annual income. The purchase will raise Publicis' U.S. income by 50%, the company said. Frankel had estimated gross revenue of $95 million in 1999. Frankel will continue to operate under its own name and existing management, and will be autonomous from Publicis' other U.S. holdings.

McDonald's sets April for Teletubbies promo

Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co. shifts its tie-in attention to the other burger giant (AA, Nov. 15) as the "Teletubbies" purveyor and McDonald's Corp. announced a spring promotion at the top fast-feeder. The "Teletubbies Hugs" promotion will run April 14-27, offering toy versions of the four Teletubbie characters from the popular Public Broadcasting Service pre-schoolers series. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, will handle advertising. Burger King Corp. sold out of its Teletubbies premiums ahead of schedule during its own tie-in last May.

P&G to roll out Fit produce wash

Fit Fruit & Vegetable Wash will roll into retail stores in April and foodservice establishments next summer in Procter & Gamble Co.'s first concurrent launch of a brand for both consumer and professional use. The product has been in test market for more than five years. The commercial launch of Professional Fit Antibacterial Produce Cleaner is expected to include a heavy push for restaurant and other foodservice operators to advertise their use of the produce wash. Ad plans for the national launch weren't disclosed. In test markets, Grey Advertising, New York, created TV and print ads.

FDA warns doctors on promo-heavy flu drugs

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued a warning to physicians to be wary of misprescribing new flu drugs Tamiflu, from Hoffmann-La Roche, and Relenza, from Glaxo Wellcome, calling into question whether big-dollar direct-to-consumer campaigns for the drugs are perhaps working too well. In the public health advisory, the FDA said the "promotional activities" for the drugs "have increased attention to and interest in" the medications, and it warned physicians not to prescribe them too liberally. Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, handles Relenza, and Y&R Advertising has Tamiflu.

NBC lashes CBS over use of digital logo

Digital wizardry had CBS and NBC at loggerheads last week after the former broadcast an image of its logo over the NBC logo that appeared in Times Square during New Year's Eve coverage. The NBC logo had appeared on a giant TV screen in Times Square as CBS was broadcasting live. CBS News President Andrew Heyward said he was aware of questions about deceptive news coverage, but stood behind the Times Square action as an "aggressive" but appropriate move. Mr. Heyward said he made the decision to use the technology and didn't believe it was a case of deliberate deception. NBC demanded that the rival network stop using digitally created images like the logo.

Philip Morris to test safer cigarette

Philip Morris USA will test-market cigarettes under the Merit brand that are made with a special paper that inhibits the cigarettes' ability to burn fabrics. The product will within six months enter markets believed to include Buffalo, N.Y.; Denver; and Hartford, Conn. Ad details weren't available; Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is Merit's agency. It couldn't be determined whether the test would expand to other Philip Morris brands.

Ad groups rap high court decision on license data

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by unanimous decision Jan. 12 that Congress can limit states' ability to sell drivers license information to direct marketers and others. Some advertising and direct marketing groups expressed concern, warning the decision could increase pressure for Congress to restrict other kinds of government information provided to marketers.

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