Hotlines 2: Late-Breaking Industry News

StrawberryFrog Confirms Talks With Several Potential Suitors

NEW YORK Independent StrawberryFrog is in talks to be acquired by a number of different entities, agency CEO and CCO Scott Goodson confirmed last week. Goodson identified the suitors as holding company Publicis and at least one private equity firm. “We continue to talk to people as we try to grow the business to meet new demands. There’s no deal signed,” Goodson said. “We’ve talked to the elite holding companies. We’re talking to Publicis and venture capital firms.” The 8-year-old shop has offices in New York and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, approximately 125 staffers and estimated billings of $250 million. Current clients include Sam’s Club, Mitsubishi and Unisys.

Smith Barney Eyes McCann For Creative on $35 Mil. Account

NEW YORK Smith Barney is negotiating with McCann Erickson to handle creative duties on its ad account after a review, sources said. Estimated billings are $35 million. The New York office of the IPG shop is said to be in final talks to handle the business. The shop referred calls to the client, which denied that an agency had been selected. Sources identified the other finalists as WPP’s Young & Rubicam and independent Gardner Nelson & Partners, both in New York. The New York-based client, a division of Citigroup Global Capital Markets, launched the review in March, after the incumbent, IPG’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, took on creative duties for the global wealth and investment management division of Bank of America. Hill, Holliday in New York handled both creative and media duties on Smith Barney. McCann sister shop Universal McCann is expected to handle the media portion of the account. New York-based Source Martin managed the review.

JWT Taps Deutsch’s Rubin For New Integration Post

NEW YORK Fred Rubin, director of both iDeutsch and directDeutsch here, is heading to JWT to assume the new position of managing director of integrated business solutions. Rubin, who starts next month, will work with leaders of the New York office to develop business strategies that span multiple media disciplines, the WPP agency said last week. He’ll report to JWT New York co-president Rosemarie Ryan. Rubin, 53, spent seven years at IPG’s Deutsch here, assuming his dual role in 2002; he was previously evp and director of iDeutsch. That year he also became a partner. Deutsch does not intend to fill his post; instead, Rubin’s duties will be absorbed by Erica Grau, Deutsch New York’s director of account management.

GSD&M Wins Creative, Media Duties for John Deere

LOS ANGELES Omnicom’s GSD&M, Austin, Texas, last week won creative and media duties for John Deere brands following a review. The incumbent, IPG’s DraftFCB, Chicago, did not defend. Malone Advertising in Akron, Ohio, handled media duties. Sources attributed the review to changes in the client’s marketing department. Other contenders were not disclosed. Hasan + Co. conducted the search. Deere spent nearly $20 million in measured media in 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Midas Hands Planning, Buying To Starcom Without a Review

NEW YORK Auto service company Midas has awarded Publicis’ Starcom its media planning and buying account without a review, the client confirmed. Aegis’ Carat was the incumbent on the account, which it had held since 1998. Starcom officials could not be reached, and Carat representatives declined comment. Carat Trade, which buys ad time on a barter basis, has retained its duties, with estimated billings of $7 million, per sources. (Carat Canada, which won Midas’ media chores in that country in 2005, also keeps its assignment.) Omnicom’s DDB is the client’s lead creative agency. Midas spent $40 million in measured media in 2006, down from about $45 million the previous year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

CEO Semel Resigns From Yahoo, Replaced by Co-Founder Yang

NEW YORK Terry Semel resigned under pressure last week as CEO of Yahoo, and the company handed the reins back to Jerry Yang, the billionaire co-founder of the search engine. Yahoo said Semel has assumed the role of nonexecutive chairman and would serve as an adviser to Yang, named CEO, and Susan Decker, who was promoted to president and is considered a prime candidate for the CEO spot someday. Semel has been under scrutiny from shareholders who have expressed bewilderment at his generous pay packages while Yahoo stock has been stagnant and rival Google widens its competitive lead. Semel, the former co-chairman of Warner Bros., has earned about $450 million, mostly from Yahoo stock options, since taking over as CEO in May 2001.

Copyright Troubles Hamper Launch of German YouTube

COLOGNE, GERMANY Legal issues could hold up the launch of a German version of YouTube. The video site, which recently added a slew of local-language offerings including regional versions for Brazil, Japan, Italy, France and the U.K., is stuck in legal wranglings with the country’s leading copyright-protection group. Copyright organization GEMA said last week that it has not yet reached an agreement with YouTube parent Google on compensation for artists whose copyright-protected works are appropriated by YouTube users. GEMA lawyer Kerstin Becker said the issue at stake is not only future revenue but also compensation for past copyright violations by German users of YouTube’s U.S. site. A German Google rep would confirm only that the company was in negotiations with various partners “concerning its German launch.”

IGA, Nielsen Team Up to Study Impact of Videogame Ads

NEW YORK IGA Worldwide has partnered with Nielsen Entertainment to conduct a landmark study of the effectiveness of advertising in videogames. To produce the new research, which will be compiled from June through August of this year, IGA has signed on two top videogame publishers—Electronic Arts and Activision—as well as a pair of Omnicom shops: Organic and PHD. Nielsen will leverage the company’s Bases online research panels to measure videogame advertising’s ability to impact classic ad effectiveness yardsticks, such as awareness and intent to purchase. The Nielsen Company is the parent of Adweek.

DDB Nabs Georgia-Pacific’s Tissue, Paper Towels Creative

NEW YORK Georgia-Pacific Corp. last week selected DDB here to handle creative duties on its bathroom tissue and paper towel brands after a review. Major media spending on those brands, which include Angel Soft and Brawny, last year totaled around $50 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence. G-P identified the other finalists as IPG’s Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis, Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York and independent Mother in New York. Previously, the product lines were split between Publicis’ Fallon in Minneapolis (paper towels) and Omnicom’s DDB in New York (tissue). Napkin brands such as Vanity Fair were originally part of the review [Adweek Online, Dec. 18], but came off the table after the company realigned its napkin business with Dixie cups and paper plates under the new grouping of tabletop products, said Rob Lorys, vp of marketing services at G-P in Atlanta. The review was managed by Wannaker Associates in Atlanta.