Originally created 02/05/01

Briefcase



Maytag repairman gets help

As expected, after 11 years as the lonely Maytag repairman, actor Gordon Jump recently got an apprentice in a new campaign from Leo Burnett Co.

Actor Mark Devine, 33, is the centerpiece of a campaign behind Maytag's new Neptune washer and is expected to eventually take over Mr. Jump's role.

Unilever heats up ads

New TV ads for Unilever's Degree deodorant try to broaden the company's audience by playing up people caught in rather ridiculous but highly uncomfortable situations. It also dumps the brand's "Your body heat turns it on" tagline for a new one: "Bring on the heat."

One 30-second spot, for example, shows a man nervously trying to explain to customs agents in a foreign country how boxes of cigars got into his bag. The man's wife saves the day by explaining to the sympathetic agents that the couple was expecting a baby and the cigars were to celebrate the event. Later, on the plane, the man compliments his wife, saying: "Boy, you sure faked them out back there." She responds: "Who's faking?"

The ultimate message remains the same: Degree works hardest when your body heat turns up. But it is depending on that old saw in advertising - zig while your competitors zag - to drum up new interest in an aging brand.

Toy demand fuels Web scam

Beware of Web sites claiming to have large quantities of Sony PlayStation 2 game machines for sale, the Better Business Bureau warns.

BBBs in the United States and Canada have received hundreds of complaints from consumers who say they were scammed. Consumers were billed $400 to $800 for the PlayStation 2s but received nothing in return, said Bob Whitelaw, president of the Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Six Web sites, including two in Florida, have been shut down, but others have sprung up, Mr. Whitelaw said.

"Purchasers were asked to fax a photocopy, front and back, of their credit cards to assure speedy delivery," he said. "No legitimate business will request photocopies of your personal financial information."

There's nothing new about fraudulent offers for high-demand toys and games. There have been similar scams involving Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch dolls.

"Responsible merchants will clearly post their physical address and telephone number on their Web site," said Ken Hunter, president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. "Use that information to check complaint records" at www.bbb.org/ or through a consumer agency such as www.800helpfla.com/

Activists seek pollution tax

Some environmentalists are calling for an overhaul of our tax system. Rather than taxing income, purchases and investments - activities our society encourages - they argue that we should be taxing those things we wish to discourage, such as pollution.

"Rather than taxing income or economic investment, we would tax the toxic byproducts of economic activities so that it would become cost-effective for more industries to invest in green technologies," says Michael Lerner, president of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, Calif. He adds, "Taxing pollution might encourage companies to change their environmentally irresponsible behavior and encourage investors to think twice before investing in companies with poor environmental records."

Poll probes sleep habits

An unscientific survey has found that a wife's snoring, her unshaven legs and cover theft are among the top five bed discomforts for men. Lumpy pillows and nocturnal visitors (dogs and children) top the list of mattress miseries for women.

Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, recently surveyed the sleep habits of 624 consumers to determine why some people can get a good night's sleep and others can't.

The top five concerns that keep men awake at night are fear of aging, personal weight, spouse's weight, career worries and personal finance. Personal finance, world issues, worrying about their children, fretting over their friends' health and fear of aging concern women.

People who slept less than four hours a night tended to have a less robust love life than those who sleep six or more hours.

Professionals who lost the most sleep over job stress included teachers, nurses, accountants and newspaper reporters. Lawyers slept the best.

McDonald's shifts menus

In what is likely to be one of the biggest adjustments to its menu board since it began to offer value meals several years ago, McDonald's Corp. is rotating a variety of new offerings at its more than 12,000 U.S. McDonald's restaurants.

As of Jan. 26, restaurant operators are using a "McDonald's New Taste Menu" that moves up to 57 new and existing special food items on the menu, four at a time.

It is believed the new "taste" menu will be added to the company's current menu board but will also give operators flexibility to stick with hot-selling items or shift items on or off quickly.

The move to permanently expand its offerings comes after years of criticism that the company had been too slow to expand from hamburgers, other than short-term promotions, such as McRib.

Other chains, specifically No. 3 player Wendy's International, have been successful at consistently marketing nonburgers.