Old Navy grows enough to break its first nat'l ads

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The Gap's Old Navy Co., evolving into a strong brand in its own right after just three years, breaks its first national TV campaign next month.

The back-to-school marketing effort focuses on the chain's multipocketed, cargo-style pants. Three new spots, the first in a creative collaboration between Old Navy's in-house ad team and Deutsch, New York, spoof a fashion show in which Old Navy's canine mascot, Magic, is portrayed as a designer.

Previous executions, in which Magic showed up on a quiz show and in other campy settings, were broadcast only in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and a handful of other markets.

The new ads feature fashion model Markus Schenkenburg, who's unhappy that he has not been allowed to wear a brown pair of pants. Also part of the scene are fashion editor Carrie Donovan, whose fashion notes appear in Old Navy print ads in The New York Times. Model Jerry Hall makes an appearance in the spots trying to negotiate her way onto the set.

The campaign, which breaks at the end of August on national cable and spot TV, has an estimated budget of $10 million. Some of the money has been shifted out of newspapers; radio ads will continue in spot markets.

As part of its marketing effort, Old Navy will continue its gift-with-purchase promotions. It also is backing an Indy racing team and driver.

Cargo pants, modeled on airmen's flight uniform pants, have become the top fashion statement in Europe, said Richard Crisman, senior VP-marketing.

"We want to have a niche pants and own it," he said, adding the pants will come in a large variety of colors and fabrics, including camouflage and corduroy. "It will be the vehicle we use to cut through everyone out there during the denim wars."

Old Navy, which recently dropped the words "Clothing Company" from its name to reflect a broader range of product offerings, has become the growth vehicle and profit center for the Gap, Mr. Crisman said.

"We're not Gap's little sister anymore," he said. "Old Navy is a power brand of its own."

With 215 stores, Old Navy is expected to expand to as many as 280 stores by the end of the year, and to build a second flagship in Chicago next year. Old Navy's first flagship store is in New York.

"It's the little engine pulling the Gap corporation," said Alan Millstein, publisher, Fashion Network Report. The Gap, he said, has "figured out how, instead of allowing discounters to take away share from them, to keep it in-house."

Old Navy's success has come amid stiff competition in the retail industry, not only from its older sibling but from other retailers and manufacturers such as Levi Strauss & Co., which later this summer launches what is expected to be a $75 million branding effort.

Six spots in the Levi's campaign, expected to focus on independence and originality, are being shot by director Tarsem, who directed last year's showcase "Pool Boy" spot for Levi's 501 jeans. Another Levi Strauss division, Slates dress slacks, also plans a new marketing effort. Both efforts are from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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