Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, the computer companies, are launching a joint venture with international delivery group UPS and more than 50 European retailers this week aimed at taking the hassle out of Christmas shopping.

E-Christmas, the online shopping venture, offers centralised purchasing and delivery (www.e-christmas.com).

Oil of Ulay has sponsored five artists to create works of art using its new line of cosmetics, Colour Collection, and then direct a ‘virtual art gallery’ to advertise the range on television. Procter & Gamble, has taken the unprecedented move as part of the range’s 22m launch.

The Portman Group, the drinks sector group funded by the industry, is launching a series of recommendations, together with police and health workers, to combat under-age drinking. It includes introducing unit labelling on cans and bottles, and starting alcohol education in primary schools.

Dyson (right) launches a new TV commercial next week for its bagless Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner. Created in-house, the ads compare the Dyson to conventional vacuum cleaners.

Webmedia, the leading new media agency, has laid off a third of its full-time staff, slashing the agency’s headcount from 30 to 20.

Reader’s Digest has appointed Bates Dorland and Zenith to handle media planning and buying for its twice-yearly Prize Draw. The 2m account was previously with Roose & Partners, although creative on the account was switched to Bates Dorland last October.

GMTV has poached former New PHD TV buying controller Jim McDonald as its new group sales manager. He replaces Keith Stael, who is leaving to travel round the world.

Benetton is launching a range of ‘designer condoms’ in the UK. The range, which is to be manufactured and distributed by Mates Healthcare, will be exclusive to Boots from mid-November.

Safeway has appointed marketing director Roger Partington to the board of holding company Safeway plc, where he takes on the role of customer development director.

Research 97, Marketing Week’s second annual market research exhibition, opens today (Wednesday) and runs until Friday. Over 80 top research companies are exhibiting and nearly 100 users and research practitioners are taking part in the seminar programme. Research 97 takes place at the Royal Horticultural Halls, London SW1. For details, turn to page 37.

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