PEARLE LANDS AT BARKLEY EVERGREEN: EYEGLASS CHAIN SHIFTS $40 MIL ACC'T; RAPS INDUSTRY RELIANCE ON PROMOS

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Pearle Vision Centers is looking to its founder for direction. New ads by the retailer are expected once again to highlight its origins as the only eyeglass chain founded by an optometrist, Stanley Pearle.

The retailer last week awarded its $40 million account to Barkley Evergreen & Partners, Kansas City, Mo., days after its split with McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.

The new ad campaign, to debut in January, will build on that brand heritage, said David Farmer, senior VP-executive creative director at Barkley Evergreen. He said Pearle wants to set itself apart from the rest of the eyecare field -- notably rival LensCrafters -- which mostly relies on promotions.

When Cleveland-based Pearle hired McCann in May 1997, agency and retailer also said Pearle's chief competitive edge was to build on the strength of Mr. Pearle. But McCann's most recent ads for Pearle -- humorous vignettes, in which a ballplayer loses a pop fly in the sun and a magnifying glass sets a newspaper on fire -- touted special promotions instead of brand equity.

The two split over "a shift in marketing direction."

PROMOS BUILD CATEGORY

While pitching the account, Barkley ran online focus groups that found little difference between the chains in product and promotional offers, said Mr. Farmer. In that kind of competitive environment, most promotions will build the category, not the brand, he added.

The new campaign will be "a cultural shift for the entire company," playing up the $1 billion marketer's origin, Mr. Farmer said. The campaign will still include promotions, but that will be a part of the marketing mix, not its backbone.

Pearle VP-Marketing Philip Alexander said Pearle chose Barkley because it wanted an agency with full retail capabilities.

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