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Celebrity Endorsements

Despite ongoing concerns that brand identity and advertising messages can be overpowered by celebrity messages, there seems to be no slowdown in the use of star presenters.

One reason for that, perhaps, is that celebrity-fronted ads frequently pop up among the most liked and recalled in TV viewer surveys, according to Intermedia Advertising Group, which does such surveys.

Among the latest big-time celeb signings: Beyonce Knowles
of Destiny's Child was signed by Pepsi-Cola
as it gears up for a new marketing battle with Coke, which is also working on a new campaign with actresses such as Penelope Cruz
and Courtney Cox Arquette. Radio Shack
just signed Shaquille O'Neal
to join its list of celebrity endorsers. Chrysler
recently signed Celine Dion, and Rebok
has added Shakira
to its roster.

Accounts

Capital One, the credit-card marketer known for its three-year-old "What's in your wallet?" campaign, has put its business up for review. Incumbent D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles
is making a pitch, as are a number of non-Publicis-owned agencies. The company spent $170 million on ads last year. …

Nikon
has pruned the list of contenders for its estimated $17 million-plus account to six agencies. The finalists: Havas' Arnold
and Euro RSCG MVBMS; Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide
and DDB Worldwide; and Interpublic's Bozell
and McCann-Erickson. Arnold is based in Boston. The rest are based in New York. Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, the Minneapolis-based incumbent, is not included in the review. …

Coca-Cola
has picked Foote Cone & Belding, New York, to handle its $10 million-plus Diet Coke account. FC&B replaces incumbent Lowe & Partners, which had also been a finalist to renew the account. Both shops operate within the Interpublic Group of Companies, whose McCann-Erickson Worldwide
has long handled the flagship Coca-Cola advertising.

Campaigns

Pepsi-Cola
and co-owned Lay's Potato Chips
will launch a joint network-TV advertising campaign starting tonight (Dec. 30) on Monday Night Football. The spots feature fans snacking on both brands. BBDO
handles both accounts and created the campaign. Pepsi did a similar joint campaign last year with another co-owed brand, Doritos
tortilla chips. …

Comcast
has tapped four-time Tour de France winner and Sports Illustrated's 2002 Sportsman of the Year Lance Armstrong
to be the front man for its re-branding of AT&T Broadband
cable systems into the Comcast fold. Armstrong will appear in on-air spots beginning in February. …

Gillette
is extending its campaign for its Mach3Turbo razor (introduced earlier this year) through 2003 in prime time. BBDO, which handles the account, has just produced two new spots for the campaign (entitled, "Gravity Free at Home" and "Beamed up") that premiered in late December. The spots will be seen on a variety of network prime time shows and will be used to support the brand throughout the coming year.

Forecasts

Ad agency Initiative Media
is predicting a strong year for TV advertising in the 2003-04 season. Tim Spengler, executive vice president, Initiative Media North America, describes 2002 as a "comeback" year for network television that also benefited cable and syndication. And 2003 will get off to "very healthy" start, he said, noting double-digit scatter prices and "record low level" of advertisers opting out of commitments for ad time in the first quarter. Next year's upfront market should be "very strong" as clients seek ways to stand out in the "increasingly cluttered media universe."

ANA Conference

The Association of National Advertisers
annual conference is set for March 13 in New York and will address a number of hot button issues currently the subject of intense debate. One session will attempt to answer the question, "Is commercial TV (as we know it) dead?" Another session will tackle the upfront market with panelists addressing these questions: "Is there a better process?" and "Do we even need it?"

Executive Shift

Michael Bungey
is leaving Cordiant Communications Group
as CEO at year's end (that would be tomorrow, Dec. 31), three months earlier than expected. David Hearn, chairman and CEO of Cordiant's Bates Group, has been named to replace Bungey.

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