Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Thom Forbes, April 24, 2007, 11:00 AM
  • Will Interactive Cards Revive Topps? Business Week

    Sales in Topps sports card division--which make up about half of the company's revenues--fell 15% annually between 2000 and 2005, as kids flocked to high-tech diversions, as well as gaming cards. Now former Walt Disney chairman and CEO Michael Eisner has partnered with private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners in a $385 million bid to take the ailing card and candy company private.

    One possible way forward is interactive cards. Mattel introduced its HyperScan card games in 2006. They use CD-ROM and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technologies to allow users to select a character from a card, such as The X-Men's Wolverine, and have him battle an opponent on a TV screen, just like a video game.

    If Topps were to introduce a similar system for professional athletes, it could be a winner. Electronic Arts' Madden NFL 07 video game for Sony's PlayStation 2 was the best-selling game in the U.S. in 2006. Read the whole story...

  • Miller's CEO Stands Ready To Fight All Comers Ad Age

    Fresh from the flop of its "Man Laws" campaign, Miller CEO Tom Long told distributors at an annual conference last week that the No. 2 brewer intends to return Miller Lite to the combative posture it largely abandoned in 2005.

    Long--the one-time president of Coke's Northwest European division--is modeling the Miller offensive on the Pepsi Challenge model of his former archrival, Pepsi Cola. But unlike Pepsi, which went after one brand--Coke--Miller Lite plans to compare taste, carbohydrates and calories to all rival beers.

    A similar strategy worked well for Miller Lite when it picked up market share from No. 1 light beer Bud Light in 2003 and 2004. But Long acknowledges that being a challenger brand today is no longer as simple as taking punches at Bud Light. In addition to the wine and spirits brands that continue to steal beer drinkers, there are now 13 beers in the premium-light-beer category. Read the whole story...

  • Ford's Environmental Executive Reports To CEO The New York Times

    Ford yesterday promoted Susan M. Cischke to a new job as senior vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering--the first executive at a Detroit auto company to have sustainability in her job title. Cischke, who now reports to CEO Alan R. Mulally, will be in charge of creating a long-range strategy on sustainability matters.

    On April 2 the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from automobiles. The primary way that can be done, carmakers and environmentalists say, is to increase automobile fuel economy. As a result, Detroit carmakers, which have a long history of fighting regulations, are saying they want an active role in the movement to reduce the damage vehicles do to the environment.

    Representatives of environmental groups are glad to see Ford's latest steps, but have not forgotten that the automaker has a history of pulling back on promises of building more efficient vehicles. Read the whole story...

  • Crest, Oral-B Marriage Gets Off To Rocky Start The Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

    By combining Crest toothpaste and Oral-toothbrushes, Procter & Gamble hopes to transform the fragmented oral-care shelves of drugstores so they look more like the hair-care or skin-products shelves, where consumers often buy a suite of products. But efforts to combine the world's No. 1 toothbrush and the world's No. 2 toothpaste have proved problematic.

    A corporate structure featuring dual presidents was so unwieldy that the senior president finally stepped aside. A forced move for Oral-B employees from Boston to Crest's Cincinnati home led to an exit of talent. Then there were culture clashes: Oral-B favored meetings, while Crest liked memos; Oral-B made relatively quick decisions, Crest deliberated more. Meanwhile, the sales forces gunned for each other's jobs.

    One merged P&G group had little problem integrating: the scientists. P&G's oral research and development team visited Oral-B's technological center in Germany, and then hosted the Germans in Cincinnati. Now, the two groups are trying to develop an Oral-B toothbrush and Crest toothpaste designed to work best together. Read the whole story...