Hotlines: Late-Breaking Industry News

Initiative Shuffles Research Unit In Prelude to Shift in Planning

New York IPG’s Initiative has reorganized a key research department into two separate units: Consumer Insight and Futures & Technology. EVP David Ernst, who ran the precursor operation for 10 years, is leaving the agency. The reorganization is a prelude to a new planning approach the shop will unveil soon. Also in the works is a broader relaunch of the agency’s brand in the fall. The new Consumer Insights unit will be overseen by Rob FitzGerald, evp, managing director, East Coast, who reports to North American CEO Richard Beaven, who detailed the changes last week in an internal memo. The new Futures & Technology unit will be managed by Janice Finkel-Green, most recently Initiative evp, broadcast strategy, who now also reports to Beaven.

$40 Mil. Beck’s Creative in Play; Gound Zero Not Defending

Los Angeles Beck’s beer is putting its estimated $40 million creative account in review, according to sources. Incumbent Ground Zero, which won the business last August following a review, will not defend, sources said. Last November, Norwalk, Conn.-based InBev, Beck’s parent company, signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Anheuser-Busch in the United States. Neither the Leuven, Belgian-based client nor InBev USA could be reached. Steve Cahillane, who succeeded Brent Willis as chief commercial officer in 2005, left the company recently, according to sources. The InBev Web site lists Jo Van Biesbroeck as the acting CMO. Though it typically spent an estimated $40 million on ads annually, last year Beck’s, in the throes of transition, spent only $22 million, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Beck’s had been with Publicis’ Leo Burnett since 2002, previous to its less-than-a-year stint with Los Angeles-based independent Ground Zero. When it was last in review, sources said Leo Burnett, IPG’s Lowe and Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty—the latter two pitching out of London—were also among the contenders for the business.

R/GA Forms Group Dedicated To In-Store Digital Displays

NEW YORK R/GA has formed a unit dedicated to bringing interactive experiences to the retail environment. John Jones, a technical creative director, will lead the division, which builds on in-store digital display work R/GA has already done in the past decade for clients like Verizon and Nike. The practice focuses on digital product demonstrations, signage and new avenues for bringing interactive technology to stores, such as using motion sensors to display information based on a customer’s interactions with a piece of merchandise. The in-store practice follows a move by R/GA last October to create a mobile division, the Mobile and Emerging Media/Applications unit, which followed on the widely hailed work the shop did on Nike+, a wireless system allowing runners to record workouts on their Apple iPod Nanos via chips in their running shoes.

Congress Gives Fast Approval To Bill Restoring FCC Authority

WASHINGTON The Senate Commerce Committee last week approved legislation aimed at reinstating the FCC’s authority to fine broadcasters for a slip of the tongue. The measure was passed in less than five minutes on a voice vote without debate or dissent. The Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act is Congress’ attempt to overturn a June decision by a federal appeals court in New York that tossed out the FCC indecency regulation saying a fleeting reference gets broadcasters a fine for indecency. FCC chairman Kevin Martin hailed the bill, calling it necessary to protect the nation’s children from indecent images. After the voice vote, committee staff said they didn’t know when the legislation would hit the Senate floor.

Scott Hagedorn Named New Director of OMD Digital

New York Omnicom’s OMD has named Scott Hagedorn U.S. director of OMD Digital, the agency said last week. He replaces Sean Finnegan, who earlier in the week was promoted to CEO of OMG Digital, a new Omnicom Media Group unit (see page 36). Hagedorn will oversee all digital efforts across OMD offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Hagedorn also joins OMD’s U.S. Operating Council and its OMG Digital Global Council. Hagedorn was previously director of innovation at OMD, where he helped define the next generation of integration, strategy, measurement and analytics in the digital space for the shop and its clients. He will report to Page Thompson, CEO of OMD North America.

Nickelodeon Group Will Spend $100 Mil. on Gaming Platforms

NEW YORK MTV Networks’ Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group plans to make a major commitment to the casual gaming space, as the company pledged to spend $100 million over the next two years to develop new games and gaming platforms. That investment will lead to a host of new Web-based games spanning several MTVN brands, including Nickelodeon Noggin and The N as well as the company’s pre-existing Web properties Shockwave, AddictingGames and Neopets. By early next year, for example, the company will roll out Nick Gaming Club, a subscription-based offering that will combine virtual worlds and social networking, and, which MTVN said is the first gaming site for girls.