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Valley Talk

Capitalizing on Bad Spellers Entertainment can be a competitive industry in which to do business, to say the least. Witness the recent skirmish between two video duplication companies that operate out of Burbank and Hollywood. Hoping to capitalize on typos and people who don’t have strong spelling skills, VDI Multimedia staked out its claim online by buying the domain names lightningdubs.com, lighteningdubbs.com and other misspellings of the name Lightning Dubbs which just happens to be the name of one of VDI’s biggest competitors. Lightning Dubbs has its own Web site (lightning dubbs.com). Lightning Dubbs is suing VDI for cybersquatting. And as of late May, the sites with misspellings of their name had been vacated by VDI. Invasion of Privacy A North Hollywood retail executive got a taste of the television ratings wars up close and personal the other day. It seems that along with the steamy, made-for-television movies that pop up during the all-important sweeps week, one San Diego-based news program got the idea of exploring the seamy side of retail dressing rooms. As part of the report, Milinda Martin, director of special events and public relations at Robinsons-May, along with a number of other retailers, found herself answering questions about privacy in those areas. “It was a case of the perils of being in business during sweeps week,” Martin said. “To me, it was a tempest in a tea cup. The whole concept seemed ridiculous.” Martin said she hasn’t yet seen the piece but wonders how much controversy it could possibly drum up, given that Robinsons-May dressing rooms are discretely set off from the sales floor, with personnel assigned to monitor the area should any unwanted intruders show up. (Mostly, though, they just hang up the unwanted clothes.) Martin wasn’t entirely surprised by the provocative angle of the program. “Usually, they call and ask us what’s new in lingerie,” she said. People Persons There’s a new addition to the touchy-feely dot-com dictionary of personnel titles GoTo.com, a Pasadena-based Web site, recently appointed Mary-Ann Spencer as its “chief people officer,” instead of director of human resources. It’s yet another attempt by dot-coms to energize the workplace with things like office pool tables, casual dress and titles designed to inspire a friendlier, team-oriented atmosphere. “We believe people are our competitive advantage rather than technology or the latest whiz-bang device,” Spencer said, explaining her title. “We have a commitment to each other. We also have a lot of fun.” What’s So Funny? In the world of advertising, a funny campaign often means money in the bank. So it was no surprise that a sense of humor ranks very high when it comes to the attributes needed for success in the field, according to a recent survey by the Creative Group, an advertising and marketing staffing service. But be careful; what works in an ad doesn’t necessarily translate to office behavior. “It’s important not to go overboard (with humor),” cautioned Michael Delance, L.A. division director of the Creative Group. “It’s important that it be appropriate for the occasion and never at the expense of others,” said Executive Director Liz Hubler. Different in Des Moines Think taxes are high in L.A.? Think again. In the latest nationwide tax survey put out by Runzheimer International, L.A. actually ranks No. 39 among 50 of the largest U.S. cities in total annual taxes paid as a percentage of income. According to the survey, a typical family of four with a household income of $60,000 in L.A. pays $12,948 a year in taxes $3,500 less than in New York City and $1,300 less than in Chicago. Angelenos even pay $1,000 a year less in taxes than comparable residents of Des Moines, Iowa, which was among a slew of cities that sent business recruiters to L.A. in the early 1990s to lure businesses with promises of their low-tax environments. Still, Susan Ramsay, spokeswoman for the Greater Des Moines Partnership business group, isn’t ready to concede that L.A. is a better place to live. “Our housing costs are one-third of yours, so even at a higher tax rate, the (property) tax bill will still be smaller,” she says. So there.

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