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Century 21 Extends Baseball Alliance

Century 21 Real Estate signed a two-year extension of its current Major League Baseball marketing alliance. That relationship, dating back to 1999, now will run through the 2004 baseball season. Octagon, the real estate firm's sports-marketing agency of record, negotiated the deal. Besides remaining MLB's "official real estate organization," Century 21 will remain title sponsor of Home Run Derby on ESPN (the next one is July 14 from Chicago); it also will support a related "Home Run Derby All-Star Sweepstakes."

Meanwhile, ESPN and ESPN2 announced that they will air "TV sports' first-ever 'Grand Slam'" of four major pro sports events on the same day, April 27: a regular-season MLB game, the NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs and NFL Draft Day. The MLB prime time game on ESPN is billed as Sunday Night Baseball Presented by Nextel.

Animal Planet, Suzuki Renew Deal

Animal Planet
and American Suzuki Motor Corp.
announced Monday that they have renewed a deal to promote the automaker's XL-7 SUV for a second year. The buy, running through year's end, calls for Animal Planet to run four new safety vignettes each quarter, with an ASPCA special investigator demonstrating how to travel safely with pets in the SUV. The network also will air custom-tagged tune-in spots and billboards for Suzuki tied to the Animal Precinct series. Moreover, will support the alliance via various online elements designed to drive traffic to Suzuki's Internet site. The ASPCA angle is new to the Suzuki ad deal. The automaker also will provide funds to support the organization's efforts to halt animal abuse and pet overpopulation, the companies said.

WPP Forms Group M

WPP Group
will unite its media-buying operations, MindShare
and Mediaedge: cia, under the Group M
banner. The media units will negotiate jointly via Group M during the upfront market but also will operate separately. Irwin Gotlieb will become Group M CEO, with MindShare COO Dominic Proctor succeeding him as MindShare Worldwide CEO. Group M's board will include execs from both media operations.

BK Goes to Y&R

Burger King, which, at the end of March, denied that it had decided to switch its account to Y&R Advertising, New York, announced Monday afternoon that the WPP Group unit will indeed become its lead ad agency on the estimated $350 million business. Y&R also will handle media buying and planning. The fast-food chain said it will continue working with UniWorld Group
and Bromley Communications
on campaigns targeting African-Americans and Hispanics—as they have since the 1980s—and that Campbell-Mithun
will retain the kids business. Burger King CEO Brad Blum cited Campbell-Mithun's "knowledge of this particular market," coupled with its kiddie-oriented entertainment deals with DreamWorks, Warner Bros.
and Nickelodeon. (Meanwhile, McDonald's
is said to be intent on getting more flexibility into its movie–tie-in deal with Disney in the wake of a few box-office misses.)

Y&R replaces Amoeba Marketing and Interpublic's Deutsch Advertising, both California-based. WPP's MindShare replaces MediaFirst International
on the media side.

Burger King also will break TV support April 21 for its "Big Kids Meal" Justice League premium tie-in and "Justice League Adventure Sweepstakes."

Eight action toys inspired by the Cartoon Network series will be packaged in Big Kids Meals—as will mini-comic books, said the fast-food chain's Vice President of Global Advertising and Promotions Craig Braasch. The12-page comic books from DC Comics will be related to the eight toys.

Without giving a number, Burger King said this will be "one of the largest custom-comic project print runs ever published."

Account Review

plans a creative-account review that will include incumbent Cliff Freeman & Partners. That New York-based agency won the account in fall 2001, but its initial TV spot last year—featuring an old woman with sagging breasts asking, "Lifetime guarantee? … What can you do with these?"—was widely considered tasteless. According to reports, a half-dozen agencies have been asked to compete. Aegis Group's Carat, also New York, will retain Midas's media account.