Retailer Wanted a Spokesperson Closer to 'Lifestyle' Issues

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Queer Eye design guru Thom Filicia will succeed actress Kirstie Alley as the spokesperson for retailer Pier 1 Imports.

Photo: AP
Kirstie Alley wasn't quite 'lifestyle' enough for Pier 1 and will be replaced by Thom Filicia.
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Executives close to the negotiations confirmed that the home decor retailer is winding down its relationship with Ms. Alley and is finalizing details of a new contract with Mr. Filicia, who is one of the "Fab Five" from the hit Bravo cable show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

Mr. Filicia's manager, Michael Flutie, declined to comment.

Connected to the category
The retailer apparently wanted someone more connected to the lifestyle category to front its marketing. Pier 1 views Mr. Filicia as having credibility in the lifestyle arena, said an executive involved in negotiations. Mr. Filicia was named one of the top 100 American designers by House Beautiful and has his own New York firm called Thom Filicia Inc. He likes Pier 1's broad appeal and "exotic flair," this executive added.

Pier 1 Imports initial agreement with Mr. Filicia is for on-air endorsements and a new advertising campaign. Pier 1's agency of record, Campbell-Ewald, Detroit, which is part of Interpublic Group of Cos., is brainstorming creative ideas for a potential second-quarter 2004 campaign, those close to the negotiations said.

The agency declined to comment. Pier 1 did not return calls for comment.

His own products line
Mr. Filicia, who renewed a deal for new episodes of the hit makeover series with NBC/Bravo at the end of October, is also in talks about a separate deal that would have him launch his own branded line of products with the company further down the line. However, it is not clear whether Pier 1 will be featured in any of the 40 new episodes of Queer Eyethat started this week.

In the show's first season, Mr. Filicia took one of the makeover candidates to Pier 1.

Part of the new NBC deal gives the five experts freedom to pursue their own outside agreements so long as they don't reference the "Fab Five" or the reality series' name, which is trademarked by its maker, Scout Productions.

Consumer recall
Ms. Alley's contract has run for the past three years and has been hugely successful in terms of consumers recalling Pier 1 ads. Intermedia Advertising Group, New York, which measures advertising and brand recall against all other new advertising, ranked the Pier 1 spots featuring Ms. Alley No. 6 and 14 in a top 20 spots of the year in December 2002. This year, spots ranked No. 20 in the first quarter and No. 3 in the second quarter.

Jason Weinberg, the actress' manager, said Ms. Alley "loves the company and thoroughly enjoys working with them and will continue to be a frequent shopper."

"While Kristie has enjoyed her spokesperson responsibilities, her long-range goal is expanding her spokesperson status to also include her own personal line of products," Mr. Weinberg said. "Although she is being pursued by other companies to accomplish this long-range goal, she doesn't feel comfortable commenting on any specifics at this time."

"She can't get into that while she is fronting the holiday campaign for Pier 1," said an executive close to talks, who declined to say whether Ms. Alley was talking to Pier 1 about the new line.

Earnings improvement
On Nov. 6, Pier 1 released revised its earnings guidance upward for its third quarter, saying that October sales had exceeded expectations. The retailer said sales were up 9.3% from $131 million to $143 million. The company also plans to open 54 new stores by the pre-Christmas period. Third quarter results are due Dec. 16.

While the results beat analysts' estimates, some showed concerns about long-term prospects for growth in an increasingly competitive home furnishings sector. Morgan Keegan & Co. retail analyst Laura Champine questioned the company's ability to drive store traffic over the holidays after posting flat traffic in October and admitting to a soft start to November.

"We continue to remain concerned with the company's decision to use Kirstie Alley for the crucial holiday season promotion, as we believe customers might perceive the campaign as stale," she told investors in a report.

Pier 1 spent $52 million on measured media in 2002, and $31 million for the first eight months of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

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