10 breaking stories from adage.com this week

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GSD&M opts out of Wal-Mart review

GSD&M has elected not to participate in Wal-Mart's $580 million re-review of its creative and media accounts. A statement from GSD&M co-founder and President Roy Spence read: "I want to thank Wal-Mart for inviting us to re-pitch the business. I have decided to decline. We helped build Wal-Mart from $11 billion in sales to $312 billion. We declare victory. We will do everything to make the transition perfect. We wish our great friends well. And we are moving on." The Omnicom Group agency and Wal-Mart incumbent based in Austin, Texas, lost out to Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB in a decision made in late October. But Wal-Mart reversed that decision and reopened the review after ousting a pair of marketing executives involved in the review, including Julie Roehm, senior VP-marketing communications. Wal-Mart has invited the other two finalists from the previous review, WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather and Interpublic's Martin Agency, according to people familiar with the situation.

Departures shake up AOL's executive suite

It's out with the old, in with the new at AOL. Weeks after Randy Falco was made CEO of Time Warner's AOL, the industry is abuzz with the news that three senior executives are leaving-including the programming chief behind what is arguably AOL's most buzz-worthy execution of the past two years: its online broadcast of Live 8. Jim Bankoff, the exec VP-consumer and publisher services responsible for much of AOL's programming (including a recently inked comedy deal with HBO), is leaving the company, according to a person familiar with the situation. Also leaving are Joe Redling, president of AOL Mobile, customer management and paid services and CEO of the international business, and John Buckley, exec VP-corporate communications.

P&G won't rely on spending cuts

Procter & Gamble Co. won't rely on cuts in marketing spending to reach its aggressive margin-expansion targets during the balance of the decade, despite having cut reported ad spending as a share of sales in the past two fiscal years, executives told a meeting of analysts. At the same time, however, the company went to lengths to point out that restraining ad spending doesn't necessarily have to hurt brands. Case in point, according to Chief Financial Officer Clayton Daley: P&G's North American fabric-care business, which cut ad spending as a share of sales by 2% over the five fiscal years ended June 30 but increased sales $900 million, boosting market share 3.5 points and building scores for brand equity on flagship Tide to record levels.

Emap shutters U.S. version of 'FHM'

Emap last week pulled the plug on the U.S. edition of FHM. "As part of the continuing review of its portfolio, Emap announced it has decided to suspend the publication of the U.S. edition of FHM," the company said. "The decision is consistent with the group's strategy of focusing resources on faster growth platforms and has been taken in light of the difficult trading conditions in the U.S. market." The magazine's website, FHMUS.com, will continue to operate.

Video-gaming sales set to top $12.5 billion

Early video-gaming-industry sales data put 2006 on pace to be the best year in recent history. So far almost $9 billion in hardware, software and accessories have been sold this year, led by a strong November that saw sales of hardware jump 69% over November 2005 and software and accessories rise 7% and 10%, respectively, according to a report from NPD Group. NPD analyst Anita Frazier predicted total 2006 U.S. sales will top $12.5 billion, a boost of 16% over last year's $10.3 billion.

Primedia weighs Channel One options

The future of Channel One, the in-school TV network that launched the careers of CNN's Anderson Cooper and "National Geographic's Ultimate Explorer" host Lisa Ling, is hanging in the balance. According to executives familiar with Primedia, the company has been quietly talking to prospective partners, including Walt Disney Co., about a possible sale. One executive close to Primedia said talks never progressed after Disney failed to show interest in the company. The Primedia company is seriously off its ad projections for the fourth quarter following a challenging 2006. Channel One is part of Primedia's education division, which performed poorly in the third quarter.

Chandler family explores Tribune bid

The Chandler family, which forced Tribune Co. onto the auction block, may have found a buyer: itself. The family-which sold Times Mirror Co. to Tribune in 2000-in June called that merger "disastrous," although at the time it indicated it was not interested in buying the company. Tribune officially went up for sale in September, and the company has said it expects that process to last into the first quarter of 2007.

Report blasts FDA handling of drug ads

The Government Accountability Office released a scathing report on the way the Food and Drug Administration handles direct-to-consumer prescription-drug advertising, saying the agency has issued fewer warning letters to pharmaceutical companies for false and misleading advertisements and is taking longer to do so.

Candidates pair with ad specialists for '08

The voting may be more than a year away-and many hopefuls haven't formally declared their candidacy-but the ad pairings are already forming for the 2008 presidential race. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will likely be lining up with Mark McKinnon, who headed the Bush Maverick Media ad team. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is expected to work with Alex Castellanos, the veteran Republican at National Media, Alexandria, Va. Mr. Castellanos was also part of the Maverick Media team. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is poised to tap Wilson Grand Communications, an Alexandria-based GOP ad firm. On the Democratic side, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton looks to be aligning with Mandy Grunwald of Grunwald Communications, who handled Ms. Clinton's Senate campaign. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is expected to go with David Axelrod's AKP Media & Message, Chicago.

Dove latest to solicit ads from consumers

Unilever's Dove is joining the growing ranks of brands enlisting consumers to do the work their ad agencies once did. It's asking "real women" to create TV ads to run during the Academy Awards on ABC Feb. 25. In an e-mail to members of its online relationship-marketing program, Dove began seeking entries for a 30-second ad to promote a new product, Dove Cream Oil Body Wash. The e-mail directs people to DoveCreamOil.com, a site hosted on Time Warner's AOL, which provides online tools and allows consumers to upload their own files.
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