Lee Jeans Appoints New Agency, Plans Anniversary Push

Hires Omnicom Group's GSD&M to Replace Havas' Arnold

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VF Corp's Lee Jeans has selected Austin-based agency GSD&M to handle creative duties after a competitive review that began in September.

"One thing that was really important to us was [for an agency] to be able to think about the brand and execute that in all aspects of the marketing mix," Lee's VP of marketing, Liz Cahill, told Ad Age. "They were hands down the best at it. We wanted to find an agency that can help us have more of a holistic campaign."

She added that given Lee is a 125-year-old denim brand, the team was impressed with the Omnicom Group-owned shop's work on heritage brands such as Goodyear and L.L. Bean.

The move ends a six-year relationship with Havas' Arnold. The agency was invited to defend but declined to pitch, according to one person familiar with the matter.

"I have nothing but great things to say about Arnold," said Ms. Cahill. "Their team was really strong. What we felt we were maybe missing was stronger digital capabilities. That's something I know they were building for us, [but] it was not as quickly as we needed."

Arnold didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

GSD&M will serve as the lead agency on the account and spend much of the year planning for a 125th-anniversary campaign slated for 2014. The brand also works with Barkley PR spin-off Crossroads, media-planning and -buying agency MEC and social-media and digital firm Digital Evolution Group.

Lee Jeans spent $22 million on U.S. measured media in 2011, according to Kantar Media. With a pay-for-performance model set up with most of its agency groups, Ms. Cahill said that her team is "definitely looking to have increased investments with proven creative."

For Arnold, the loss comes on the heels of leadership and organizational changes within parent company Havas. After replacing the name Euro RSCG with Havas Worldwide, it appointed global Arnold CEO Andrew Benett to the new role of global president of Havas Worldwide. Arnold global president Robert LePlae has succeeded Mr. Benett in the Arnold CEO role.