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Dome hits the headlines as Budweiser court cases continue

How can a brand hit the headlines a year after it ceased to exist? Only the Dome could manage it, writes Jennifer Whitehead in this week's round-up of brand news.

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Still making the headlines for all the wrong reasons -- even though it hasn't been doing anything for almost a year -- was the Dome. And the irony of the bad headlines? It was revealed that the PR agency Cardew & Co had been paid £339,000 of lottery money to provide "external press support" for the Dome over the last year and that an in-house press officer was still retained.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Nick Harvey asked the question on many people's lips when he said: "The Dome has had rotten PR, so you have to ask what has been done by this firm which is considered so important."

A rotten week was also had by US brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, which lost yet another court case against Czech brewer Budvar over the Budweiser name. A UK court ruled that both companies have the right to call their beers "Bud" in this country. Once again, it is the lawyers who are the real winners in this dispute... some 40 cases are pending across Europe as the two brewers duke it out over ownership of the Budweiser brand.

Wrangling over drink brands was also the thorn in the side of Allied Domecq, as top executive Todd Martin was unceremoniously booted out of the company this week. The official line was that the president of North American operations had left because of "a disparity in strategic direction". But his departure is reportedly due to Allied's attempt to buy Captain Morgan rum.

Several brands were thinking extension this week. Students cheered but gourmets groaned as HP's newest product hit the shelves and the headlines. It unveiled "Omlette, chips'n'beans", a meal in a can with all the ingredients of a balanced supper, or so HP claimed. The product is a technological breakthrough as it is the first time -- and possibly the last? -- the chip has been canned.

WH Smith was talking expansion in big terms. It announced on Wednesday it was to open 120 news stores in the UK, including its first ever in Northern Ireland, and creating 3,000 jobs in the process. Coffee Republic failed to generate the same publicity as WH Smith, but it also announced an expansion plan. It says it will double in size by 2004, with plans to open 75 coffee bars. It also acquired GoodBean, a chain of espresso bars in the south east of England.

HBOS, the company formed by the merger of Halifax and the Bank of Scotland, launched a salvo in the competition for small business accounts. Commentators predicted it would start a new trend with its introduction of interest payments on small business account balances, but rival banks refused to compete, saying it would cost them some £600m.

Speaking of big bucks... Carlton Communications' boss Michael Green was reported to be in the running for a big bonus if he can double the troubled ITV company's share price. The Daily Mail trumpeted that he was set to "trouser £14m" as part of incentive packages given to senior executives.

While the deal could secure Green's already rosy-looking financial future, Delia Smith saw her name go down in history as she became the first individual to be deemed by the editors of the latest Collins English Dictionary to be a generic term. The new dictionary defines a Delia as "the recipes or style of cooking of British cookery writer Delia Smith. A Delia dish". Delia was reportedly chuffed as, no doubt, were HarperCollins execs, who managed blanket media coverage in the process.

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