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REEBOK'S WARDLEY OPEN TO ADDING AGENCIES FOR BRAND: NEW AD CHIEF BRINGS COCA-COLA PHILOSOPHY IN IMAGE TASK

By Published on .

Reebok International will focus on the technological features of its footwear in its 1998 advertising as the marketer seeks to hone a sharper brand image under the direction of new Global Advertising Director John Wardley.

Heater Advertising, Boston, will remain Reebok's lead agency and is currently crafting a global push to be launched in the first quarter of next year. But Mr. Wardley said he will enlist other agencies as needed, bringing to Reebok the same philosophy he worked under at Coca-Cola Co.: "No one agency has a monopoly on good ideas."

Mr. Wardley, formerly a senior ad director for Coca-Cola overseeing global advertising on a number of brands, arrived at Reebok last month following a restructuring. Mr. Wardley reports to Brenda Goodell, VP-global marketing communications; she reports to Jack Guze, senior VP-chief marketing officer.

Reebok posted U.S. sales of $1.93 billion in 1996, down 4.5% from the year before. But industry observers say Reebok has regained momentum.

DMX A SUCCESS

A new cushioning technology, DMX 2000-first introduced in running shoes-has proven successful. A gritty, documentary-style flavor in its 1997 TV advertising, largely aimed at trend-setting urban youth, has sought to further link Reebok with superstar athletes and infuse its brand with contemporary relevance. Mr. Wardley wants to build on this base.

Asked if Reebok has a clearly defined brand image, Mr. Wardley said, "I'd probably have to say it doesn't. One of the main tasks at hand is to rectify that."

Pointing to DMX 2000 and two other cushioning and design technologies, Mr. Wardley said, "It's clear we have some strong technology stories and I'm not sure they've been told as well as they could be. We're going to change that."

A template for what to expect will come in the form of several new spots from Heater that will hit beginning in November.

That push includes the introduction of The Answer, endorsed by NBA star Allen Iverson, which takes DMX 2000 into basketball shoes.

LOOKING FOR BROADER APPEAL

Reebok will continue to market aggressively to African-American teens and the urban marketplace in 1998, but Mr. Wardley would like to reach a broader audience as well.

He wouldn't say whether Reebok will increase or decrease ad spending, estimated in the U.S. at $92.5 million last year.

"The Reebok brand has a lot of warmth and has always been about inclusion," said Mr. Wardley in comparing his brand to rival Nike.

But he's committed to matching Nike in ad creativity.

"Frankly, I can tell you that in an ad sense, the bar is going up," Mr. Wardley

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