Gap seeks shops for two key chains

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Gap Inc. is on the hunt for a creative agency for at least two of its three major brands and is believed to have opened discussions with Omnicom Group agencies, including BBDO Worldwide.

Two executives close to negotiations say Gap Inc. President-CEO Paul Pressler met with Omnicom senior management last week, adding that Gap Inc. is focusing on its Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, neither of which uses outside creative ad shops. BBDO declined to comment.

Gap Inc. reported $495 million in ad expenditures in 2002, and its measured media spending on TV last year was $242 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR data. The retailer in May consolidated its media buying business with Omnicom media planning and buying shop PHD USA, though it continues to handle print buying in-house.

Last week Old Navy appointed a new senior VP-marketing, Susan Wayne, who was previously exec VP-group account director at Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA. She starts in July.

Ms. Wayne has been part of a Leo Burnett team working on a Gap Inc. strategic branding project that was awarded in December 2002. Burnett was hired to work on consumer research, refining brand positioning and developing longer-term strategies for at least two Gap Inc. brands: Gap and Banana Republic. An agency executive said the project is coming to an end, although a Burnett spokeswoman said, "Leo Burnett 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."

The spokeswoman would not comment on whether the agency was also in talks on new assignments. It would be a double blow to Burnett to have lost both Ms. Wayne and the opportunity to do more work for Gap Inc.

In June, Gap Inc. named Marka Hansen president of Banana Republic. Exec VP-Marketing Jack Calhoun was one of Mr. Pressler's first hires (see story, P. 22). Mr. Calhoun said the retailer is considering a return to TV advertising after an absence this past couple of years. Mr. Calhoun managed BBDO, New York in his last marketing role at Charles Schwab & Co.

not formal

A spokeswoman for Gap Inc. said "there is no formal review," but added 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 exec VP-marketing at Gap brand.

The companywide search for creative agencies does not appear to include Gap brand at present, which uses Laird & Partners, New York. Gap brand VP-Marketing Kyle Andrew added, "Gap brand is not looking for an agency. We are very pleased with the work they do."

Laird & Partners is putting the final touches to a fall ad campaign shot on the cobblestone streets of New York's SoHo. The TV campaign breaks in August and features actresses Lucy Liu and Amanda Peet.

material girl

Ms. Andrew confirmed that Gap is also in talks with singer and actress Madonna about unspecified marketing projects.

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

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