Pony taps Crispin Porter to lead makeover

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Pony, the bad-boy sneaker brand that courted controversy by using porn star Jenna Jameson in its ads, plans to revamp its offerings and has hired Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Venice, Calif., as agency for a global ad campaign scheduled to launch this fall.

The win is the third for Crispin Porter's fledgling West Coast shop, which opened the day before Sept. 11, 2001 and took some time to win significant business. Other clients include Boca's Buca di Beppo, a national restaurant chain; Aeromexico; Hawthorne Savings; and FX Network. But the choice looks like a good fit, since Crispin Porter's flagship agency is known for hot creative campaigns for the edgy and challenger brands, including BMW's Mini Cooper, Swedish retailer Ikea and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

checkered past

Pony was popular in the 1970s among celebrities such as Wilt Chamberlain, Muhammad Ali and players for the National Football League's Oakland Raiders, but was out of business by the `80s. Two years ago, Los Angeles music-management company The Firm-which represents bands such as Limp Bizkit and N*SYNC-bought the brand with a partner, ACI, Los Angeles, with plans to make its artists instrumental in promoting the Pony line. The Firm recently featured Ms. Jameson and other Vivid Entertainment Group stars in a media campaign. Ads, created in-house by The Firm, were targeted to an urban market and appeared on billboards and in independent publications such as The Source and Flaunt.

The effort caught the attention of Bill O'Reilly of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor," who accused Pony of hiring "quasi-prostitutes to market its products." The remarks led to a public back-and-forth with Ms. Jameson, who said Mr. O'Reilly should know the difference between a porn star and a hooker.

In March, Global Brand Marketing, which holds footwear licenses for Diesel and other brands, bought rights to Pony, with The Firm retaining a minority interest. (ACI bowed out in late 2002.) A news release announcing the deal said The Firm will continue to provide marketing services for Pony.

Global Brand Marketing CEO Killick Datta, who also heads up brand marketing, was traveling and unavailable for comment at press time, a spokeswoman said. Executives at The Firm referred calls to Mr. Datta.

more attitude

Pony will now switch into a "more lifestyle and attitude brand," said Tim Roper, creative director of Crispin Porter's Southern California shop. He said the agency plans to make the Pony chevron logo "synonymous" with a young, edgy and "dangerous in a rules-breaking way" lifestyle.

Pony has discontinued current product lines and this spring will launch a line positioned between skateboard and street shoes, as well as apparel and accessories. Initial work will break in a trade campaign this summer, followed by a guerrilla and print effort for fall. Spending is estimated at between $5 million and $7 million.

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