GAP SEEKS CREATIVE AGENCY FOR TWO BRANDS

Talks Involve Old Navy and Banana Republic

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Gap Inc. is on the hunt for a creative agency for at least two of its major brands and has opened discussions with Omnicom Group, according to two executives close to the negotiations.

The executives said Gap Inc.'s president-CEO, Paul Pressler, met this week with Omnicom's senior management. They also said Gap Inc. is focusing attention on its Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, neither of which uses outside creative ad shops.

Recent changes
In May, Gap Inc. consolidated

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its media buying business with Omnicom's PHD USA, though it continues to handle print buying in-house. Last week Old Navy appointed a new senior vice president of marketing, Susan Wayne. Ms. Wayne, who was previously executive vice president and group account director at Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, starts in July.

Ms. Wayne was part of a Leo Burnett team that worked closely with Gap Inc. on a strategic branding project that was awarded in December 2002. Leo Burnett worked on consumer research, brand positioning and long-term strategy for two Gap Inc. brands: Gap and Banana Republic. An agency executive said this project is coming to an end.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Burnett said it "was hired by Gap Inc to do strategy and branding work for Gap and Banana Republic and project work for Old Navy. We are continuing to do that. Our work continues to be 100% strategic."

TV ads for Banana Republic
In June 2002, Gap Inc. named Marka Hansen president of Banana Republic. That unit's executive vice president of marketing, Jack Calhoun, was one of Mr. Pressler's first hires. Mr. Calhoun told Ad Age the retailer is considering a return to TV advertising after an absence from the airwaves during the past couple of years.

A spokeswoman for Gap Inc. said, "There is no formal review," but that the company speaks to outside agencies from time to time. The spokeswoman denied speculation that Gap Inc. is looking for a chief marketing officer at the parent company, but confirmed an active search for an executive vice president of marketing for the Gap brand.

Laird appears safe
The companywide creative review does not appear to involve the Gap brand, which currently uses Laird & Partners, New York. Kyle Andrew, vice president of marketing for the brand, said, "Gap brand is not looking for an agency. We are very pleased with the work" from Laird, which is putting the final touches to a fall ad campaign shot on the cobblestoned streets of New York's SoHo. The TV campaign breaks in August and features actresses Lucy Liu and Amanda Peet. Ms. Andrew confirmed that the Gap is also in talks with pop star Madonna about unspecified marketing projects.

An April 14 article in Fortune magazine reported that Mr. Pressler has been critical of the company's uniform approach to advertising. The article suggested that Mr. Pressler wants to customize ad messages separately to men and women.