Lacy, new CEO of Sears, wants to create a shopping center

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Alan Lacy, the new CEO at Sears, Roebuck & Co., is looking for more than a guaranteed good life at a great price.

Mr. Lacy, who took over the Sears rebuilding effort Oct. 1, wants to put the power of Sears' $1.5 billion marketing budget into making the retail chain a shopping destination. The new CEO has found Sears' advertising to be too focused on its product lines in the "Softer side" campaign, which turned upward the company's fortunes in the 1990s, and on price with its 15-month-old, heavily promotional "Good life at a great price. Guaranteed" campaign.

The longtime Sears executive came to the CEO post from heading up the retailer's credit and service operation, where he turned around Sears' credit card business.

The new marketing direction Mr. Lacy envisions is "where we need to go," said David Selby, senior VP-retail marketing. "The company has been engaged in a transformation since 1992."

But will this latest transformation measure involve new ad agencies?

"I don't think so. We have great agency relationships," Mr. Selby said, noting general ad shops Ogilvy & Mather and Y&R Advertising, both Chicago and New York; Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, for African-American advertising; and Mendoza, Dillon & Asociados, Newport Beach, Calif., for Hispanic advertising, among others.

The retailer has been careful to keep a balance between work assignments at Ogilvy and Y&R, which maintained their hold on Sears' account after the departure of the two men who hired them, former CEO Arthur Martinez and his first chief marketing officer, John Costello.

Under Mr. Costello's successor, Mark A.Cohen, chief marketing officer-president, softlines, the agencies last year were directed to work together to develop the "Good life" tagline.

Still, Mr. Selby noted, "I don't think there is a large or small advertiser who isn't constantly reviewing and assessing what's on their plate. We are calibrating and recalibrating our tactics. Let's leave it at that."

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