But instead of lining up with one of the four contenders in that race, Mr. Sansolo-a key part of the Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos team that introduced Infiniti with a Zen-like rocks and trees campaign-headed once again for the outdoors.
ON TO SEATTLE
This time he has moved to Seattle, to take the position of senior VP-global brand director at specialty retailer Eddie Bauer Inc. The move leaves behind his Los Angeles company, Point A Consulting, where he worked with some of the nation's top agencies-including Foote, Cone & Belding and Hal Riney & Partners-and consumer brands-such as Levi Strauss & Co., Hewlett-Packard and E&J Gallo Winery.
"This job has my name on it," said Mr. Sansolo, who sees the retailer's newly created position, reporting directly to President Rick Fersch, as an opportunity to "bring all disciplines together in a focused way."
But the job offers challenges other than orchestrating disciplines; they range from direct marketing to in-store promos to helping with some product decisions.
"Many still think of Eddie Bauer as an outdoor brand," said Mr. Sansolo, whose job is to stretch that image to all things relating to a casual lifestyle, just as the retailer moves into the international arena.
With more than 400 North American stores and 16 in Japan, the Spiegel subsidiary this fall opened its first store in Germany, a joint venture with Otto Versand Group, one of the world's largest mail-order companies.
In addition, Eddie Bauer has been extending its brand with new retail concepts, such as this fall's launch of EBTek, a line of separate outerwear parkas and vests that can be worn separately or linked together.
In order to avoid the cookie-cutter sameness in consumer shopping experiences, Eddie Bauer has begun testing a new store format, "casual headquarters," in Edina, Minn., and Keystone Crossing in Indiana. The 11,000-square-foot stores combine two Eddie Bauer concepts: the marketer's casual sportswear line and A/K/A Eddie Bauer, a line of dress sportswear.
Few in the ad business are better equipped to encounter the challenges faced by the casual-lifestyle retailer than Mr. Sansolo, 53, who was reared in the Bronx, attended New York City public schools and picked up a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University in 1969.
His first jobs involved teaching Peace Corps volunteers as well as a yearlong course on encounter groups.
His career, which has mixed academia with research, marketing and advertising jobs, began with a post as a supervisor on advertising and social science research at AT&T Corp.
Mr. Sansolo cut his teeth in the international marketing arena with a job in London, where he was director of Spenser Marketing Services. He later moved to Hill Holliday in Boston as a senior VP-marketing and rose to vice chairman-marketing. He moved to California to be close to Nissan Motor Corp. USA headquarters, running the Infiniti business.
Because of his skills as a social psychologist and as a veteran adman, Mr. Sansolo knows the key question in the advertising community is whether he will continue with Eddie Bauer's new agency, Black Rocket, which has roots reaching back to Riney and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, all in San Francisco.
A second question involves Frankel & Co., which Eddie Bauer also recently hired as agency of record for strategy and retail promotions.
"A change in marketing management at a company should not dictate a review," Mr. Sansolo said, adding, however: "As soon as I start, we'll take a close look at what's going on," particularly the new print and test TV campaign themed "Balance," which he inherited.
"How do you take the current positioning and interpret it and keep evolving it so it is fresh in America and internationally?" he asks. Along with reinforcing the marketer's value/quality story, that's one of his challenges.