Film revisits McD's libel suit in U.K.

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A documentary could reopen old wounds for fast-food giant McDonald's Corp. as the independent film recalls the story behind a decade-long court battle-the longest trial in British history-that pitted McDonald's against two Greenpeace activists the marketer accused of libel. The judge in the trial ultimately scolded McDonald's because the company "pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food did not match." The documentary, "McLibel," was directed by Franny Armstrong and distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. It opened June 10 in San Francisco and begins soon in Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland, Ore., and comes on the heels of two other nonfiction works-Morgan Spurlock's independent film "Super Size Me" and Eric Schlosser's book "Fast Food Nation"-as the latest jabs thrown at the Golden Arches. The film expands its reach just as the chain named a new president of its European operation and as it rolls out ads featuring a buff Ronald McDonald as fitness guru.

The court battle began in June 1994 when McDonald's sued five London-based Greenpeace activists for libel after they distributed leaflets that asked "What's wrong with McDonald's?" Three of the activists pulled out and apologized, but two fought the chain. By March 1995, it was the longest British libel trial and nearly 18 months later it became the longest trial of any kind in British history. After initially being ordered to pay damages, the two appealed twice, then took their complaint to the U.K.'s Court of Human Rights, claiming that a lack of access to legal aid hurt their right to a fair trial. In February the court sided with the activists, giving the government three months to appeal. At the time of the decision McDonald's said, "The world has moved on since then and so has McDonald's." A spokeswoman repeated the line when asked about "McLibel." QwikFIND aaq64v

Brand Buzz tapped to redo New Jersey Nets brand

Brett Yormark, president-CEO of the Nets Sports and Entertainment Group, has hired WPP Group's Brand Buzz to help remake the New Jersey Nets as the franchise prepares to move from its current home in East Rutherford, N.J. to new digs in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the 2008-09 season. After researching the team's fan base, Mr. Yormark and BrandBuzz intend to remake the Nets' image. "My gut tells me the Nets are about character," said Mr. Yormark. "It is something we'll have to explore-in a hip and cool way with our current fans as well as with our new fans." Ad spending in 2004 was about $500,000, but expenditures in the coming years are expected to be in the several million dollar range. QwikFIND aaq64x

Apple broadens iTunes reach with Sundance pact

Sundance Channel's deal with Apple that makes some of the network's content exclusively available as podcasts from the Apple's iTunes Web site is one of the first indications that Apple is beginning to broaden iTunes, originally created as a music distribution hub, into a more diverse media distribution hub. The podcasts will be edited versions of "The Al Franken Show," which airs on Air America Radio affiliates as well as the Sundance Channel, a premium cable network jointly owned by NBC Universal, Robert Redford and Viacom's Showtime Networks. Video clip packages of the show will also be available for streaming from QwikFIND aaq65i

BBDO snags $140 mil Levitra biz from Saatchi

Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide is the new agency of record for Levitra, the third agency in the last seven months. In a curious and stunning move, Schering-Plough and GlaxoSmithKline, co-marketers of the erectile-dysfunction drug, removed Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Healthcare after only six months on the $140 million account. Saatchi had just replaced WPP Group's Quantum Group in November following a review. A Schering-Plough spokesman said the company will continue to work with Saatchi and BBDO, and that the assignment was for a project. But executives close to the switch said BBDO will receive the entire account. BBDO and Saatchi declined to comment. Saatchi has not produced any TV advertising since winning the business. As of two weeks ago, Schering-Plough and GlaxoSmithKline were still using ads that Quantum created that feature a sultry, 40ish woman talking about the effects the product has had on "my man." QwikFIND aaq65f

FYI ...

Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, won the top prize at the Magazine Publishers of America Kelly Awards during the Association of National Advertisers' Print Advertising Forum in New York. The $100,000 Grand Prize Kelly Award went to the agency's "Tools" campaign for Canadian brewer Molson.

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