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REI Taps Publicis' Spark for Media Buying and Planning

Retailer Launched a CMO Search Shorty After the New CEO Joined Last Fall

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REI is set to hire Publicis Groupe's Spark as its new media buying and planning shop.

The selection marks a shift from Omnicom's media agency network to Publicis' Starcom MediaVest Group network -- rival groups that will be part of the same holding company when Omnicom and Publicis complete their planned merger later this year.

The retailer declined to comment and agencies mentioned either referred calls to the client or couldn't be reached. REI's media budget this year is $30 million to $40 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Kent, Wash.-based retailer awarded its national creative advertising and media buying business to Omnicom's BBDO and Prometheus Media, a group within Omnicom's media agency network, in 2007.

Omnicom's largest media agency, OMD, defended the business in a competitive review that began late last year. BBDO continues to work with the brand, but the retailer moved a portion of its creative work in-house last year, according to people familiar with the matter.

The agency change also comes on the heels of internal changes at the outdoor apparel and gear giant. The company hired Jerry Stritzke, previously chief operating officer for fashion brand Coach, as its CEO just a few months ago. Mr. Stritzke succeeded Sally Jewell, who left to join the Obama administration as Secretary of the Interior last year.

Since Mr. Stritzke joined, the company has been on the hunt for a CMO -- a new role at the company -- to replace senior marketing executive Angela Owen, according to an article in the Seattle Times.

Annie Zipfel is listed as VP of marketing on REI's corporate site. According to her LinkedIn profile, she was promoted into the role this month. Ms. Zipfel joined REI in 2012 as VP of customer marketing. Prior to that, she was VP of owned brands and packaging at Target.

For Spark, the business rounds out a diverse roster of accounts it's won since its revamp a couple of years ago, including Taco Bell, AbbVie and Orbitz.

A community of climbers started REI, which stands for Recreational Equipment Inc, 75 years ago. Today, the retailer touts 133 stores in 33 states. In 2012, the company reported $1.93 billion in revenue.

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