Gap's Global CMO to Depart Early Next Year

Farbman Was Architect of Brand's Marketing Resurgence

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Seth Farbman
Seth Farbman

The architect behind Gap's marketing overhaul is leaving the company.

Global CMO Seth Farbman is departing his role effective Jan. 31, though he will stay on as an advisor for a period of time. This marks the second high-profile marketing exec to decamp from the brand in recent months. In September, Marcela Aguilar, Gap's senior global director-marketing communications, left to become director-global marketing communications at Apple.

There is no immediate successor for Mr. Farbman, but "we have a strong bench of internal and agency talent to support Gap brand as we determine his replacement," a Gap Inc. spokeswoman said in a statement.

The brand now has three VP-level marketing execs in place. Attica Jaques handles brand management and global operations; Norito Enomoto is responsible for visual merchandising and store design; and Grace Wong handles creative, media and marketing communications. Ms. Wong recently joined the team in New York from China, taking on Ms. Aguilar's role, in addition to other duties. She was named an Ad Age China Woman to Watch earlier this year.

Mr. Farbman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The move comes as Gap Inc. retools its corporate leadership. CEO Glenn Murphy announced in October he would be departing effective Feb. 1. Art Peck, currently president of growth, innovation and digital operations, has been tapped to replace him. Though the company has made progress in the last few years -- and was named to Ad Age's Marketer A-List last year -- it's recently hit a rough patch. Same-store sales have been down or flat in the last three quarters, following eight consecutive quarters of growth.

Mr. Farbman, an Ogilvy alum, became Gap's first Global CMO in 2011 as part of a broader retooling of the then badly flagging brand. At the same time, the brand shifted its marketing operation to New York.

"Seth has led global marketing for Gap brand, creating the marketing platform 'Believers in Bright' and the newer 'Dress Normal' campaign. He has championed diversity in advertising and been a strong advocate for the Gap Inc. Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement program," the Gap spokeswoman said.

Mr. Farbman oversaw massive changes, including a move to remind people -- both inside and outside the company -- of the storied brand's history. He built up the team in New York and brought in fresh talent, including Ms. Aguilar. He also oversaw the brand's first global campaign and the creation of "Be Bright."

"It's not terribly glamorous, honestly. We're just getting really fundamental and foundational," Mr. Farbman told Ad Age in 2012 about the push. "It's maybe a rediscovery, or a recommitment, to what it truly means to be Gap. That's why I've been so interested in our founders' story. That's why I'm looking at our assets differently."

Early in his tenure Mr. Farbman shifted away from an agency-of-record model (the brand had been working with Ogilvy) in a bid to generate fresh ideas. The brand worked with Peterson Milla Hooks and AKQA. With Gap's sales moving in the right direction, its marketing budget grew. Measured media spending more than doubled to $54 million during Mr. Farbman's tenure, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. The brand, once a staple on the small screen, again looked to TV. Its fall 2013 campaign marked only the second time in seven years it had advertised on the medium.

In March, Gap tapped Wieden & Kennedy as its lead global agency. Arresting work, including ads created with Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Sofia Coppola followed.

Gap's recent campaign was directed by Sofia Coppola.
Gap's recent campaign was directed by Sofia Coppola.

Of the recent campaign directed by Mr. Fincher, Mr. Farbman told Ad Age: "What I wanted, because this is Gap, was positive anxiety -- that was the brief. We wanted to make it more challenging than what people think of as a Gap commercial. Rather than a beginning, a middle and end of the story, we wanted to tell part of the story and leave a sense of wonder."

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