Levi's $75 mil TV account in review

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Levi Strauss & Co. is consolidating its national broadcast and cable network TV buying, placing into review an account that could reach $75 million.

Two incumbents are participating in the pitch: TBWA/Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif., and San Francisco, and TN Media, New York. TBWA/Chiat/Day handles creative and media for the Levi's brand. TN Media is a sibling of FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, which has the creative and media assignments for Dockers and Slates.

FEBRUARY DECISION

A trio of major media buying shops is also in the hunt: Young & Rubicam's Media Edge, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann and MacManus Group's MediaVest.

A decision is expected in February.

The review, according to a Levi Strauss spokesman, is being undertaken "to enable us to maximize our leverage, flexibility and efficiencies across the Levi's and Dockers brands." Print and spot TV buying and creative assignments are unaffected by the review, he said.

Agency media executives said Levi's request for proposals pegs the business at $50 million to $75 million. That indicates the company may be ramping up TV advertising. Measured media figures show that for the first nine months of 1999, the Levi's brand was supported by $21 million in network and cable TV, while Dockers received $16 million.

SHIFT IN DIRECTION

The review offers the first public glimpse of a shift in marketing direction by the troubled jeansmaker since Philip Marineau took over as CEO in September. Levi Strauss has faced stiff competition in recent years from private labels, such as J.C. Penney Co.'s Arizona brand, as well as from designers and specialty stores such as The Gap. Last year, privately held Levi Strauss reported double-digit sales declines.

Mr. Marineau has identified a clear strategic position for the company, rebuilding its relationships with retailers such as Penney's and Sears, Roebuck & Co., a senior company executive said.

The Levi's executive said Mr. Marineau also is seeking a strong, long-lived creative marketing message from its shops.

The executive added, however, "At this point, we haven't had any conversations about [an agency review]."

TBWA/Chiat/Day, which won the jeans business two years ago from FCB Worldwide, has tried a number of new executions that, as company management changed, were short-lived. Most recently, it has developed a TV and outdoor campaign tagged "opt. for the original."

An executive familiar with the company said Mr. Marineau, however, has told agency executives at the two creative shops he will give each an opportunity to handle the account for one marketing cycle before he makes any changes.

Contributing: Beth Snyder, Laura Petrecca

Copyright January 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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