The shift was initiated by Dickies Chief Marketing Officer Matthew McCartin, who arrived at the company eight months ago after spending time as director of advertising at Yum Brands in Louisville, Ky.
Mr. McCartin told Ad Age that he quietly held a review over the past few months, meeting with about 10 large and midsize shops. The company's measured-media spending is meager. According to Kantar, it has spent under $10 million for the past several years.
Asked if the review was driven by a desire to work with a smaller shop, Mr. McCartin said, "it's always nice to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond," but indicated that the review was driven by a desire to improve its approach toward retail marketing.
Dickies hired Goodby as its creative agency of record in 2009, which was a significant shift from its prior strategy of generally relying on in-house capabilities and using shops for projects from time to time. "I did not establish the relationship, but we left on good terms and were both ready to try new opportunities," said Mr. McCartin, adding that Goodby is "a great agency."
"Everyone knows my brand, but I have to be more aggressive in the retail space," he said, citing various segments that have grown out of the 90-plus -year-old brand, such as young men's and women's clothing, and licensing partnership with some 14 different partners that includes Dickies-brand sunglasses and other accessories.
"Over the years, we've extended the brand into a lot of different areas, so when I was looking to find a new agency partner, I was looking for someone that could help us at the retail level. What I need to do to help move the needle for the brand is to develop purchase intent," said Mr. McCartin. "One of the reasons that Creature won our business is what they were able to do with Seattle's Best and Starbucks in Walmart Stores ... we were one of the first brands within Walmart , so they've been a strong partner of ours."
He added, "it was the fact that Creature had worked in that environment" and "they understood the retail space within a big-box store, and had experience launching a brand there that was very compelling for us."
The first work from Creature is expected to break this summer, and a full-scale brand campaign is expected at the end of 2012.
It's the second win for Creature this month: the agency's London office was just hired by Adidas to handle the launch of its Originals line of sneakers in the U.K.