Outdoor Outfitter Taps BBDO for $28M Ad Account

REI Looks to Agency as Competition From Wal-Mart, North Face Mounts

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Outdoor gear and clothing retailer REI has handed its estimated $28 million creative and media account to BBDO, Atlanta, according to executives familiar with the matter.
REI's flagship store in Seattle.
REI's flagship store in Seattle.

The Omnicom Group agency was one of three finalist agencies that Kent, Wash.-based REI eyed for the account. The others were Omnicom sibling agency GSD&M Idea City, Austin, and WPP Group's Y&R, San Francisco. Copacino & Fujikado, a Seattle independent that had the business since 2003, was the incumbent.

An REI spokeswoman said the retailer has made no public announcement concerning a decision on the review. GSD&M and Y&R executives declined to comment, as did BBDO Atlanta President-CEO Chris Hall.

REI spent $27.7 million in measured media in 2006 and $21.3 million for the first nine months of 2007, according to TNS Media intelligence.

Climbing Walls No Longer Enough
REI, which stands for Recreational Equipment Inc., was founded in 1938 by Pacific Northwest mountaineers and is a national retail cooperative selling its own brands and national labels of clothing and equipment for climbing, cycling and other outdoor recreational activities. Anyone can shop at REI; those paying a one-time $15 fee receive a rebate on purchases.

Ten years ago, the retailer was one of the first to build stores with climbing walls. However, as the novelty of the climbing walls wore off, REI has begun remodeling its stores to incorporate features such as community rooms where classes can be held or nonprofits can hold meetings. It also has established the position of "community resource specialist" who can help with information about hikes and volunteering.

The co-op, with more than 3 million active "members," faces increased competition from a host of discounters ranging from Wal-Mart to outlets and from some of its suppliers such as the North Face.
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