Gap Awards Holiday Campaign Duties to Crispin

Decision May Indicate Full-Blown Account Shift from Laird & Partners

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Gap Inc. is busy finalizing a deal with Crispin Porter & Bogusky to handle its flagship brand's holiday campaign, according to executives familiar with the matter. The move could be a precursor to a full-blown account shift if last year's Old Navy review is any indication. Gap Inc. put out an open call for fresh creative ideas for that brand and ultimately handed the entire $200 million account to Crispin in October.

The move marks the first time Gap has moved beyond agency of record Laird & Partners, New York, for a major campaign in seven years. Laird & Partners participated in the review, as did Campbell-Ewald, and, according to one executive, as many as ten agencies participated in the review. Crispin already handles the company's Old Navy brand. A Gap spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Crispin.

Independent Laird & Partners, New York, has been Gap's creative agency of record since 2002, when it was selected to handle print and TV advertising amid a 21-month decline in same-store sales at the retail giant. The agency has done some well-regarded work for the retailer, but monthly same-store sales, after rebounding temporarily in 2003 and 2004, have lagged again in recent years. The retailer is now in the midst of a 13-month sales decline.

The decision is a blow to Laird & Partners, a boutique shop that primarily counts fashion and luxury brands among its clients. Trey Laird, CEO and chief creative, could not be reached for comment. It's not clear whether the shop, which has been Gap's agency of record, will retain that position or be invited to participate in future campaigns.

History repeating itself?
The situation mirrors what transpired with Old Navy's creative account last year. After putting out an open call for fresh creative ideas, Old Navy ultimately handed its $200 million account to Crispin in October. The incumbent on the account, Chandelier Creative, an independent New York shop specializing in fashion and luxury brands, participated in the pitch but ultimately lost the business.

The selection of a big creative agency to handle the holiday campaign could signal a return to major advertising initiatives by the brand. Gap has shelved splashy campaigns and TV advertising as it works to improve product. But, recently, there have been signals that the company may be ready to resume its advertising activities.

Gap Inc. CEO Glenn Murphy said during the company's last earnings call that several pushes are on tap for the fall, including a denim relaunch and a 40th anniversary celebration. While he tempered expectations for the fall, saying the campaign would be relatively low-key, he did hint that the company would look to further investment in Gap during the second half if the brand performed well in the coming months.

Mr. Murphy has said he's been pleased with Crispin's work for Old Navy, whose "Supermodelquins" campaign broke in February. Since then, same-store sales have been on the rise, increasing 3% in May. That's a major accomplishment for a retailer that had, prior to March, posted double-digit declines in 11 of the previous 13 months.

A similar turnaround of the Gap brand would go a long way toward righting the San Francisco-based marketer. In 2008, the company's sales fell to $14.5 billion from $15.8 billion in the prior year and have been steadily declining from a five-year high of $16.3 billion. Gap Inc., which is the parent of Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta, spent $435 million on advertising in fiscal 2008, compared with $476 million in 2007 and $573 million in 2006.

Contributing: Jeremy Mullman and Rupal Parekh

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