The Week

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MCI, looking for boost, taps Deutsch

The agency shakeup that split MCI's branded consumer business from the non-branded calling services was coming for at least a year, according to insiders familiar with the situation. Ailing MCI Group, a unit of WorldCom, last week handed Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York, the branded MCI business and left non-branded services such as 1-800-Collect, 10-10-220 and others with Havas Advertising's Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer Euro RSCG, New York. The move, first reported on, came the same day WorldCom stock fell to its lowest point since 1995 and as MCI's tracking stock hit an all-time low. Combined billings are estimated at $100 million, though MCI declined to comment. Messner continues to handle WorldCom's b2b advertising, estimated at $200 million. Insiders said WorldCom thought MCI would have been acquired by now. The agency change "is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," said one ex-MCI executive. Another said WorldCom "is fixing [MCI] up to sell." WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers, in a meeting with analysts last week, shot down speculation it planned to unload MCI. QwikFIND aan14k

Bunny, Duck settle

After beating evil robots, Duracell's Mr. Quackers has survived a punch from the Energizer bunny. Energizer Co. sued Gillette Co. last month in federal court over a TV ad for Duracell CopperTop from Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide that shows its alkaline-Duracell-powered robo-duck outlasting robots powered by "heavy-duty" batteries. Such batteries are nearly extinct anyway, with only a 4% market share, and Energizer contends the ad falsely implies CopperTop outlasts alkaline rivals. Last week, the sides settled, kind of. In a release, Energizer said Gillette would be "forever barred" from running the ad. A Gillette spokeswoman said it remains on air with a disclaimer noting the comparison doesn't apply to other alkaline batteries. QwikFIND aan15c

Whose mlife is it anyway?

At&t corp.'s at&t Wireless will be able to continue its "mlife" campaign from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, thanks to a last-minute deal that settled a trademark dispute with MetLife. As part of the agreement, AT&T Wireless agreed to withdraw its application for a federal trademark for mlife, while MetLife agreed to withdraw its application for a temporary restraining order halting the campaign, which AT&T Wireless spotlighted on Feb. 3's Super Bowl. MetLife filed suit Feb. 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, asking the court to stop the "mlife" spots, claiming the campaign is too similar to its year-old effort from WPP's Y&R Advertising, New York, tagged "Have you met life today?" QwikFIND aan14l

West Coast Arnold

San francisco's ad woes haven't dissuaded Havas from bolstering offices in the city. It set up a Boston team, Jim McGinn, president, and Stuart Cooperrider, creative director, to head a renamed Arnold Worldwide shop. In January, Havas' Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer Euro RSCG opened by rebranding aka Euro RSCG. Havas also owns Black Rocket Euro RSCG. The moves came as Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day halved its San Francisco shop and Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney laid off some 100 employees following General Motors Corp.'s Saturn account loss.

Now what will we 'Talk' about?

Though the moves were telegraphed by press accounts in Ad Age and elsewhere long before the official announcements came, on Feb. 5 Time Inc. and Conde Nast Publications made it official: Terry McDonell, editor in chief of Wenner Media's Us Weekly, was tapped to be the next managing editor of Sports Illustrated, and Talk Media President Ron Galotti returned for his third stint at Conde Nast, this time as publisher of GQ. Their challenges: Mr. McDonell is charged with nothing less than reviving the venerable franchise, all while dealing with its legendarily insular culture. Mr. Galotti will focus his as-seen-on-TV (as "Sex & The City's" Mr. Big) feistiness on keeping GQ the top dog in the high-end men's book field amid challenges from Esquire's sharpened editorial product and competition from the Maxim crew.

More than half of U.S. now wired

Home internet use has finally exceeded 50% of the U.S. population. That's according to a report by the U.S. Commerce Department, which revealed that 143 million people, or 54% of Americans, have used the Internet as of September 2001, an increase of 26 million over the previous year.

Dismal January for magazine industry

January's doldrums for the magazine world were even darker than usual this year,with an overall 15.9% ad page loss compared with last year. More alarming were drops posted by some of the industry's top brands, among them Business Week (down 58.9%), Golf (down 57.7%) and Martha Stewart Living (down 31.8%). Wenner Media titles prevailed: Rolling Stone (pages up 46.6%) and Us Weekly (up 22.3%).


Susan l. taylor, senior VP-editorial director of Essence, will be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame...Nike is suing Sega of America Dreamcast and agency Leagas Delaney, San Francisco, for copyright infringement and unfair competition over a spot for Sega's NBA 2K2 which Nike says parallels a 1996 Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., ad "Frozen Moment" with Michael Jordan.

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