Beetles, Chihuahuas Outscore NBA

A look back at some of Adland’s winners and losers in 1998


* Volkswagen Beetle: Designed by VW’s Simi Valley Design Center and accompanied by a retro advertising campaign, the back-to-the-future Bug continues to turn heads, and has given a boost to the company’s other models.

* iMac: Decades ago, IBM urged its worker drones to “Think.” In a spark of creativity, Apple Computer came up with “Think Different,” the ad campaign that has reignited interest in the Cupertino, Calif.-based company and its new iMac computer.


* The Chihuahua: Do the words “Yo quiero Taco Bell” mean anything to you? The tagline became an overnight mantra for kids around the country, sparking a rebound in sales for the Irvine-based fast-food company.

* Papa John’s International: The upstart pizza maker used ads featuring Pizza Hut’s founder--now a Papa John’s franchisee--to help build its fast-growing chain to 1,800 locations nationwide. Founded in 1984, the Louisville, Ky.-based company is making a run at market leaders Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Little Caesars.

* ESPN: To its 50 million believers around the world, ESPN is a TV show, a magazine, a Web site, a restaurant and so much more. The male equivalent of HGTV, ESPN will have to react quickly during 1999 to keep rival Fox from usurping its dominant role in sports.

* Milk Mustache: The Department of Agriculture has questioned the effectiveness of the costly advertising campaign showing celebrities with milk mustaches. But the ads sell--at least at bookstores, where a paperback compilation of glossy milk mustache ads has become a bestseller.

* Pokemon: Nintendo of America’s video game is one of the hottest toys in America, thanks to a promotional blitz that includes a syndicated weekday television show. Get ready for lunch boxes, bedsheets and a videocassette based on the 150 Pokemon monsters.

* Magazines for Teens: Seventeen, YM, Teen People and other publications posted impressive advertising and readership gains, thanks to a growing population of teenage girls.

* Fubu: The New York-based urban clothing label, which stands for “for us, by us,” is worn by A-list celebrities and has attracted scores of imitators.

* Andrea Bocelli: The Italian tenor saw sales of his year-old “Romanza” album soar after the Bellagio casino used an aria from the album in its TV commercial. The agency that created the spot wasn’t as lucky; San Francisco-based Publicis Hal Riney lost the casino account.



* Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire: So what if McGwire and Sosa broke Roger Maris’ home run record? The ballplayers finished behind media mogul Rupert Murdoch, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner in the Sporting News’ list of most influential people in sports.

* Levi Strauss & Co.: Under assault from high-priced fashion jeans and low-cost alternatives from retailers such as J.C. Penney Co., Levi’s stranglehold on bluejeans has disappeared. The company is scrambling to rebuild its image with younger consumers, using an ad campaign that eschews models in favor of real people dressed in its apparel.

* Barbie: The doll got a new look this year in preparation for her 40th anniversary in 1999. But the world’s most popular doll is showing her age. El Segundo-based Mattel Inc. reports that a late sales slump means Barbie sales will finish down for the first time in more than a decade.


* National Basketball Assn.: The league that had prided itself for not missing a regular season game now teeters on the edge of losing an entire season. That’s worrying sponsors such as AT&T; Corp., which has tied marketing campaigns to the league, as well as licensed apparel makers such as Starter Corp.

* Nike: Fourth-quarter revenue and earnings stalled at Nike, which blamed the NBA lockout and the Asian economic malaise. Nike is using ads with Spike Lee to keep its brand in front of consumers--and goad the NBA back into action.

* Olestra: The fat substitute used in Frito-Lay’s Wow potato chip line rushed to a big opening earlier in the year. But some observers say the additive has failed to whet the appetites of calorie-conscious consumers.

* Magic Johnson: The former L.A. Lakers’ star couldn’t build ratings during his brief stint as a late-night talk show host. And that bodes ill for his future as a product endorser.


* Mr. K: Nissan wanted to turn the mysterious Japanese gentleman into an icon. But commercials featuring the quirky character failed to ignite sales, and he disappeared from the auto maker’s ads.

* Coca-Cola: Aggressive marketing has made Coca-Cola ubiquitous, to the point where President Clinton quaffed a Diet Coke during taping of his grand jury testimony about Monica Lewinsky. A case of product placement run amok.

* Olympic Games: The Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, failed to draw solid television ratings. And while U.S. skaters Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan finished with the gold and silver medals, respectively, neither has won in the endorsement derby.

Compiled by Times staff writers Denise Gellene and Greg Johnson.