Dockers Holds Pitch but Awards Digital Creative to None of the Contenders

Levi Strauss Brand Shifts Digital Buying From Razorfish to OMD

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After dragging agencies through a pitch process, apparel-brand Dockers is awarding digital creative to none of the contenders, and is consolidating digital media at Omnicom Group's OMD, its traditional-media agency.

The move means that the Levi Strauss & Co.-owned brand is parting ways with digital agency Razorfish, part of Publicis Groupe, and moving digital-buying duties to OMD.

According to people familiar with the review, at least four shops were vying for Dockers' digital media and creative business, including: OMD; WPP digital agency VML; independent Zeta Interactive; and Dockers' lead creative agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB. Razorfish did not participate. But in a surprise move, the marketer wound up consolidating the media portion with lead shop OMD, and heading up digital creative itself.

Dockers said it will do the latter with the help of e-commerce vendor GSI Commerce's internal website design outfit Silverlign, San Fransicso. This production relationship could prove fruitful for GSI, which has been making moves into agency services. Mostly recently, the company, based in King of Prussia, Pa., branded its own agency unit, True Action, under ex-Publicis exec Nick Pahade.

Jen Sey, global brand VP at Dockers who led the changes, said: "We are going to be taking greater internal accountability for the strategic planning on digital -- inclusive of overarching strategy, digital partnerships, social media and more."

Razorfish, GSI and DraftFCB declined comment and referred calls to the client. VML and OMD could not be reached. One executive familiar with the matter referred to the account as an "open opportunity" and expects another review for digital work in 2011.

According to Kantar Media, Dockers' investment in online media is not substantial, though some estimate the cross-channel media budget to total $20 million. OMD was responsible for last year's Dockers shakable iPhone ad.

What's puzzling is how this digital strategy coincides with the company's traditional advertising, which saw a rather splashy outlay earlier this year with a Super Bowl ad. That spot featured men traipsing about without britches, while signaling to male viewers they ought to grow up and "wear the pants."

Despite the Super Bowl effort and subsequent buzz from the spot, Levi Strauss last month reported lower quarterly U.S. Dockers sales, while booking higher U.S. advertising and promotion expense for the brand. The Dockers' sales drop was offset by strong gains for the Levi's brand, leaving parent Levi Strauss & Co. with a good start to 2010 with income up 17% year-over-year in first quarter.

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