Putting best foot, face forward

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Aerosoles quickens its marketing stride with a second ad campaign of the year aimed at moving the comfortable shoe brand into a younger, hipper arena.

The print campaign, from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham, New York, expands on an earlier March effort to create a lifestyle and personality for the brand, as opposed to its previously product-as-hero advertising. Focus groups lauded the results, which displayed Aerosoles on women's feet, and the response prompted the company to show small photos of the models' faces in the new ads.

"You get a little curious about who the customer is because the ad is focused on the product," explained Kimberley Grayson, Aerosoles senior VP-marketing. "Then, just as you're getting curious, your curiosity's satisfied as you look down to the bottom of the ad and now you see who the new Aerosoles customer is."

Each ad features a woman wearing shoes from Aerosoles' fall collection (which also includes handbags) performing her daily routine, such as walking the dog or caring for a crawling toddler. One ad shows a woman sporting brown Aerosoles sneakers playfully hitching a ride on her boyfriend's shoulders. The tagline teases: "He was committed, but she was just along for the ride."

"Aerosoles' main equity has always been as a comfort and value brand," said Julie DeLoca, account director and partner, Gotham. "Now we're working hard to make it more stylish through the stores, the line and especially the advertising."

The emphasis on advertising comes as a result of having amassed a slew of independent upscale retail locations-now 78 nationwide, according to Ms. Grayson. Aerosoles may open 20 more shops within the next year, and every opening will feature a new in-store design marked by a clean, white interior, color-changing fiber-optic shelving and a center cash register. A few existing stores will receive a face-lift as well.

Upscale locations work best for Aerosoles, Ms. Grayson said, because its price, $30 to $60, is most attractive to affluent customers looking for everyday shoes. The Aerosoles brand is owned by 16-year-old company Aerogroup International.

Ads will debut in September publications. This run is Aerosoles' second since it landed with Gotham last summer; previously it handled advertising in-house. For its fiscal year ending July, Aerosoles spent $3 million in measured media, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, 27% of which was dedicated to its fall campaign. This year, the fall line will be supported with 40% of its annual budget, according Ms. Grayson.

The privately held company wants to more evenly distribute marketing support throughout the year, which reflects a shift in thinking for the shoe shop. "For a long time our company thought you either had to be product-driven or marketing-driven," Ms. Grayson said. "And then we recognized that we can be a product-driven company that understands the necessity of marketing in making sure our customers know we have this amazing property."

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