'Woman to Watch': Old Navy recruits Burnett big-hitter

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Susan Wayne was named last week as the new senior VP-marketing for Gap Inc.'s Old Navy, executives close to the company said. In her new post, she will need to continue the retailer's recent sales growth with increased marketing spending for its affordable family brand.

The San Francisco retailer typically turns in-house for its marketing work, but Gap tapped Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA-where Ms. Wayne was exec VP-group account director-this year to learn how to better target customers for its Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic brands as it faced increased competition from discount players like Target and Kohl's.

Winning Gap business

Ms. Wayne, 38, was promoted at Burnett in February after helping to pitch and win an extensive branding assignment for Gap. Ms. Wayne could not be reached. Gap Inc. declined to comment on the hiring, saying that no announcement had been made. She was recently named one of Advertising Age's "Women to Watch" in part for her pivotal role in winning Burnett the Gap business [AA, June 2].

Gap and the Old Navy brand look to be steadily climbing out a two-year sales dive, recently reporting same-store sales increases for the eighth month in a row. In May, Old Navy reported a 13% jump in same-store sales.

Analysts are attributing the rise to the ditching of Gap's "fashion-forward catastrophe," as senior research analyst Jennifer Black with Wells Fargo Securities reported, and the return to its "basic roots."

A recent increase in advertising efforts has also helped Old Navy. For the first quarter 2003, Gap reported advertising spending for all three divisions of $101 million, up $23 million from the previous year, and the company attributed much of this rise to Old Navy's increased TV spending and newspaper circular distribution.

The circular, which was started more than a year ago, has been a successful tool in showcasing the brand's emphasis on family clothing values, rather than catering to the "tween" segment. "The company has totally fixed their merchandise assortment," Ms. Black said. "You couple that with great advertising and it's a win-win situation."

Old Navy has struck a chord, particularly with women, with its kitschy retro ads, done in-house, and often highlighting an "item of the week." Sales have been stronger with women, and top performers are active-wear, graphic tees and swimwear, stated Ms. Black.

female focus

Ms. Wayne started with Burnett in the late `80s and worked with clients like Kraft Foods' Velveeta, Noxema and Secret deodorant. She helped found a research unit at Burnett, LeoShe, that focuses on female consumers. "My true love is consumer understanding," Ms. Wayne has said. (See "Women to Watch" profile: AdAge.com QwikFIND aao71w.)

Old Navy has been looking to fill its top marketing position since February 2002, when Tom Clendenin left after only nine months. A consultant, Michael McAdden, has worked with the company since that time.

Old Navy spent $158 million in measured media in 2002, and $23 million for the first three months of 2003 according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Gap Inc. spent $316 million in 2002, and $53 million from January to March 2003.

contributing: kate macarthur

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