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Hill, Holliday's Helping Hand

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Tyco International last Tuesday ran a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal headlined, "This is what the 260,000 employees of Tyco did yesterday. Imagine what they'll do tomorrow." The ad outlined the company's efforts to produce medical supplies and equipment for firefighters.

Elsewhere in the papers, Tyco news was not so good, as the trial of ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski and ex-CFO Mark Swartz proceeded in New York. The two are accused of stealing more than $600 million from the company; they each face up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Both deny wrongdoing.

The day the Tyco ad appeared, Kathleen McRae, the former director of executive treasury, testified that her Tyco duties included paying household bills for Kozlowski and Swartz, and that she once helped the latter count cattle on his Virginia ranch.

The ad is one of three from Boston's Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. Another focuses on Tyco's new management; a third pays tribute to firefighters. They will run in major papers on an "occasional" basis, "to reintroduce Tyco to some of our constituencies," says Tyco rep Gary Holmes. They are "definitely not timed to correspond to anything happening at the trial," he says. Tyco hired the agency in May.

Hill, Holliday is becoming proficient at rehabilitating the images of battered corporations. In November, the agency fashioned a newspaper ad for Putnam Investments, which has come under fire for alleged trading abuses. The company pledged to do whatever it takes "to make sure Putnam's integrity is never again compromised."

We'll have to wait and see what they'll do tomorrow.