The Week

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Quest for smokers kicking nicotine

Competition in the non-traditional cigarette category is heating up, as Vector Group prepares to launch nicotine-free Quest in the third quarter, less than a year after introducing reduced-toxin Omni. The launch of Quest-initially scheduled to launch in the first quarter under the name Omni Free-will be supported by a $40 million ad campaign via Trone Advertising, High Point, N.C., which also handles Omni. Quest, which Vector claims will taste and smoke like a traditional cigarette, will be premium-priced. In addition, Vector will take a $3 million to $5 million charge this quarter for costs related to merging the sales and marketing functions of its two tobacco subsidiaries-Vector Tobacco and the Liggett Group-to form Liggett Vector Brands.

Struggling Gap picks new shop

A mid reports some of the Gap's divisions are talking with outside advertising agencies, the flagship Gap stores tapped a new ad agency, Laird & Partners, New York. Newly-opened Laird, founded by former Donna Karan International Exec VP-Corporate Creative Director Trey Laird, 37, will work on a project basis for the Gap in an attempt to stem a 21-month-long decline in same store sales. Gap, which spent $93.4 million on its flagship brand last year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, will use director Lisa Prisco, creator of some Gap's most memorable ads, for its spring campaign, | and maintains its in-house agency.

Yum, yum

Tricon global Restaurants, parent of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, agreed to buy Yorkshire Global Restaurants, the parent of Long John Silver's seafood restaurants and A&W root-beer chain for $320 million. The company will be renamed Yum Brands, reflecting Tricon's stock symbol. Yorkshire, which has 92 co-branded units with Tricon brands, will continue with its core management team. Both companies said they intend to keep current agencies. Observers predict roster shops Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, San Francisco, and new Pizza Hut project agency, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., to jockey for new brand assignments. Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis, handles Long John Silver's and Creative Alliance, Louisville, handles A&W advertising and KFC projects. Tricon spent $328 million in 2001 on advertising, according to its annual Securities and Exchange Commission filing. QwikFIND aan28l

Wieden grabs a Pizza Hut slice

Wieden & Kennedy appears to have a shot at picking up the whole Pizza Hut pie. Wieden bested Cliff Freeman & Partners, Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi and WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, all New York, in a pitch for Pizza Hut's "Insider" specialty pizza. While Wieden's initial assignments are almost exclusively rotating limited-time offers, the newly named Yum Brands' chain for the past year has concentrated its $150 million ad budget on those product programs. Omnicom Group's BBDO, Pizza Hut agency for 15 years, continues as the primary agency of record. QwikFIND aan28m

Now here's the condensed story

It's been busy at Reader's Digest Association of late, as the company shuttered New Choices and reportedly mulled a deal for Wisconsin-based Reiman Publications. The bombshell, though, came March 12, as The Wall Street Journal reported on a coming Securities and Exchange Commission filing in which Highfields Capital, which owns a small chunk of RDA's voting shares, disclosed making an offer for stock controlled by the Wallace Funds-named for the company's founders-that would give Highfields' 50% of the voting shares. The Funds rejected the request, although observers still see the potential for Highfields to make mischief among shareholders, especially since the Highfields letter said "management should focus its attention . . . on existing operations before considering any acquisitions." Highfields Managing Director Richard Grubman did not return a call. An RDA spokesman declined to comment.

Tropical 7UP for Great White North

Pepsi-cola is using Canada to try out 7UP Tropical Splash, a tropical fruit-flavored version of its 7UP lemonade with a combination of mango, pineapple and papaya flavors. Pepsi-Cola has used Canada before to test products, such as Mountain Dew's Code Red. Ads break in May from BBDO Worldwide, Toronto. OMD handles media. Both are Omnicom Group agencies.


Publicis groupe's Optimedia USA named Mike Drexler, 63, exec VP, Mediasmith, New York as its CEO QwikFIND aan28w ... Trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market stopped last week for L90, the once highflying Internet media and marketing agency. Nasdaq requested additional information after the firm called off a proposed merger with eUniverse and John Bohan, president-CEO, resigned. L90 is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.... DeVito/Verdi, New York, won the most ADDYs, 28, at the 2002 New York ADDYs March 13, sponsored by the American Advertising Federation. BBDO Worldwide, New York, won "Best of Show" Broadcast ADDY for its Frito Lay/Doritos campaign, while Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, won the first-ever American Pride award for its U.S. Postal Service post-Sept. 11 TV spot "Pride"....Holland Henton, 40, to senior VP-creative director, Interpublic's FCB, Irvine.

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