Why Calvin Klein Tapped a Media Agency of Record

'It's No Longer the Days of Just the Traditional Print Buy'

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Melisa Goldie Calvin Klein
Melisa Goldie Calvin Klein

From Brooke Shields' "My Calvins" in the 80s to Justin Bieber's most recent endorsement, Calvin Klein has a history of generating buzzworthy creative with high-profile stars. The same goes for 14-year CK vet and marketing chief Melisa Goldie, who has served in a handful of creative roles at the company.

Ms. Goldie wanted to take that creativity and CK's in-house marketing team to the next level by hiring an agency of record. But instead of turning to a traditional creative agency, she's placing her bets on planning and buying with the appointment of Dentsu Aegis-owned Vizeum.

She talks to Ad Age about her views on media, the company's goals to identify the Generation Z consumer for its denim and underwear lines and the Bieber effect.

Advertising Age: What inspired you to bring on a media agency as your first agency of record?

Ms. Goldie: It's a really big deal for us because we've never had a media agency of record. We've always done everything in-house, but the landscape has changed so much. It's no longer the days of just the traditional print buy and publisher relationships. The media landscape has never been more fragmented, and so is the consumers' attention span, so we thought it was a really important time to have someone help us understand who our consumer is and connect with them.

Advertising Age: Does this also mean you're increasing your budget?

Ms. Goldie: I want it to work harder for us. I want it to be more focused than just spreading the dollars across multiple different channels.

Advertising Age: How has your business changed at the same time, and did any of those changes inspire your media outlook?

Ms. Goldie: The brand has been going through a bit of a transformation over the last two years. PVH, our parent company, bought another publicly traded company called Warnaco, and we'd gone through and are still going through a transformation of a licensed business model to an owned and operated business model. Our model is probably 45% owned and operated now. That gave us a great opportunity to have full ownership of the entire consumer experience [especially for] our owned-and-operated jeans and underwear business. It really was a perfect moment to take a hard look at what we're doing and how we need to transform, how we're addressing the media landscape and how we own the entire consumer experience. We said, let's make a greater connection with consumers at all touch points, not just media. What does it look like at retail, [for example]?

Advertising Age: If Vizeum is only focused on planning and buying, what role does media play in reaching consumers at touch points beyond media channels?

Ms. Goldie: What we want to do is make sure we have the right partners who are smart and can help give us the data that's informative and that will help move the story forward. Sometimes data, if you're not careful, can paralyze you a little bit. We're really looking at a partnership with Vizeum to help us use that data to make a direct connection with the consumer.

Advertising Age: What does this move say about the shift in balance of media agencies' importance?

Ms. Goldie: Big media agencies are content creators now, [and] there's the whole idea that a brand is the entertainer and publisher now. It's a fascinating moment in time. The best media out there is the art of connection. It's how you connect with that consumer, making sure it's an authentic experience. This brand always been about creativity whether its image-making or where it lived, whether it's in out of home, in a print magazine. The reason we never had a media AOR before is we wanted to be able to personally pick where everything lived. Media placement and buying is really about that art of connections and creativity.

Advertising Age: What does your media mix look like? Has it changed?

Ms. Goldie: With every marketing effort we do we're thinking digital first. Then all the other media channels become part of the mix. We've invested significantly in digital and social and with everything we do its always-on content creation.

Advertising Age: Social and digital were certainly at the center of your latest buzzworthy campaign featuring pop star Justin Bieber. How's that going?

Ms. Goldie: What we wanted to do was really create a campaign that was a true reflection of our digital culture. Justin Bieber is that. He was discovered on YouTube and he's living his life through social under a microscope, with every moment of his life is documented. We also wanted to capitalize on the 90s moment happening out there culturally with kids. Social was extremely important but so was traditional. We still have great print [media] partners.

Advertising Age: Can you talk about the results at this point?

Ms. Goldie: It's too soon to talk about results, but so far we're thrilled with the impact it made from a social perspective and how people are talking about us. We didn't think about the retouching thing but we're good with that also. The brand is always about embracing controversy and not shying away from it. As long as people are talking about us that's a good thing.

Advertising Age: What's next? Will you continue to work with the Biebs?

Ms. Goldie: We haven't made any decisions on whether or not he'll continue to be part of the jeans campaign. He's part of the family now, and we continue to have a great relationship with him. One of the areas we're really focused is understanding that next consumer, Gen Z and what that means for our brand. It's a really different consumer born in a multiscreen world. We're doing a lot of insight work around that. It's going to help us create some of our next campaigns.

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