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Celebrity Endorsements

Major celebrities accounted for 11 of the top 20 most-effective commercials in 2002, if you include Geoffrey the talking Giraffe, the Toys R Us
pitchman. Excluding Geoffrey—who was featured in three of the top four ads—celebrities who actually breathe and eat appeared in eight of the top 20 ads, according to Intermedia Advertising Group, which based its ranking on recall surveys of TV viewers. Behind Geoffrey's top-ranked Toys R Us ad were Mike Myers
(as Austin Powers) and Britney Spears
in a Pepsi Twist
ad that took the No. 2 spot on the list. Other celebrities featured in ads on the list included Kirstie Alley
(Pier One), Barry Bonds
(Kentucky Fried Chicken), Michael Jordan
(Hanes) and Jason Alexander
(Kentucky Fried Chicken). …

Big-time celebrity endorser and National Basketball Association star Shaquille O'Neal
(Burger King, Taco Bell, Pepsi
and most recently Radio Shack) may be part of a TV series under development from CBS
about a high-school basketball team. The network confirmed the Los Angeles Lakers center is expected to be in a soon-to-be shot pilot and to make later appearances in the series. The show will focus on a former professional player who becomes a high-school coach after an accident ends his playing days. O'Neal, who has spent a lot of time on TV—both in commercials and in the NBA playoffs—also has a number of movie credits, including Kazaam and He Got Game.

Forecasts

The recovery will continue at a deliberate pace through 2003, according to a survey of 55 economists by The Wall Street Journal
last week. The widely held view of those economists is that corporations are expected to reinvest their recuperating profits after two years of cost cutting, the Journal
survey found.

The survey's consensus forecast growth in real gross domestic product next year—from 2.7% in the first quarter to 3.7% by the fourth quarter.

One question mark for the coming year, the survey found, was the outlook for consumer spending. As a group, the economists aren't sure whether it can be sustained at 2002 levels. The real GDP projection is in line with an earlier forecast by Universal McCann, the ad agency, of +2.8% for this year, which the firm said would be accompanied by advertising growth of 5%.

Agency Consolidation

Colby & Partners
in Los Angeles will be picking up much of the Los Angeles office of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

The agreement in principle follows the recent Publicis Groupe
decision to fold D'Arcy in the wake Publicis's acquisition of Bcom3 Group. But Colby has yet to decide how many of the 35 D'Arcy Los Angeles staffers and how many of that branch's accounts it will take on. Activision
and Western Union
are the accounts under consideration. Meanwhile, in New York, DMB&B has begun layoffs that could total up to 200 of its 300 staffers there.

Sponsorships

Toyota Motor Sales USA
has bought the exclusive rights to advertise in National Geographic Channel's springtime special, Surviving Everest. The two-hour special, set for April 27 at 8 p.m. features the climb up the mountain by the sons of Sir Edmund Hilary
and Tenzing Norgay
to mark their fathers' ascent up Everest 50 years ago. American International Group Inc., which is sponsoring the expedition, also bought the insurance/financial service exclusive on the special.

Profits Later

A survey released last week by KPMG
indicates that the domestic auto industry doesn't expect a return to pre-recession profit levels until 2005, largely due to the slow pace of the recovery and consumer expectations for aggressive financing incentives (try 0%).

The survey was released almost simultaneously with an announcement by Chrysler
that it would have lower first-quarter production than a year ago due to higher inventories and low sales expectations at the start of the new year. Chrysler was the second domestic Big Three automaker to announce reduced first-quarter production—earlier Ford
said it would cut production by 5% in the first quarter. But some foreign car makers appear in better shape. Last week Korea-based Hyundai Motor Co.
forecast a 10% sales increase for 2003.

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