Gap's 1st global ads confront Dockers on a khaki battlefield

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The Gap this week goes into battle against Dockers for a bigger piece of the burgeoning khaki market with the launch of its first global ad campaign.

The $20 million-plus TV, print and outdoor effort shows off new styles of fashion khakis, pants with fits different from those with a classic pleated front. The new styles include slim fit, low rise, flat front and cargo. Gap will continue to sell the classic pleats.

Creative and media are handled in-house.

Khakis are starting "to compete with blue jeans as America's uniform," said Cindy Weber Cleary, fashion director at Glamour. The newer versions, styled after World War II military officers' pants, have less of a suburban preppie look, she said. "Now, they're cool."

Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, said khakis are beginning to capture a share of closet traditionally reserved for jeans.


"People are getting tired of jeans," he said, though he doesn't expect American consumers will completely cast them aside.

Peter Simon, VP-apparel services at NPD Group, said that for the average man, khakis offer the greatest possibilities for dress and casual occasions. In the last few years, he said, 15% to 20% of consumers filling out Dockers' surveys classified the brand as a dress pant, which indicates they are categorizing them as more than casualwear.

Sales of men's khakis increased 21% to $2.8 billion in 1997 from 1995 levels, while women's khakis sales increased 36% to $1.5 billion during the same period, according to NPD Group.

The rate of growth for sales of men's jeans, a $5.2 billion market, has slowed from 9.5% in 1996 to 3.3% last year. Women's jeans have also seen a slowdown in growth.


Levi Strauss & Co. last month said its Dockers division, built on khakis, will have sales equal to its jeans division by 2000. Levi Strauss' data indicate its market share is 26%, more than double the share of its closest competitor. To keep that lead, Dockers recently broke a national campaign, tagged "One leg at a time," targeting men 25-to-34-years-old. Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, handles.

The Gap disputed Levi Strauss' figures, but declined to give its own. But it's challenging that lead with a campaign intended to flex its muscles in the category much the way it did against Levi Strauss in the jeans category.

"We have been a silent player in the category, but ... we will be [silent] no longer," said Michael McCadden, senior VP-marketing for the Gap.

Ads will run during the final episode of "Seinfeld," as well as in regular episodes of such shows as "ER" and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." The same spots will run in the U.K., Japan, France and Germany. The campaign also will run in cinemas in the U.S., Germany and France.

Print will run in more than a dozen magazines, including Details, Essence, GQ, Latina, Men's Health, The New Yorker, Out, Spin, Us and Vibe.

The Gap, which stepped up its marketing efforts last year, initially returned to TV with a series of spots for its easy-fit jeans.

The new spots are not tagged with the "Fall into the Gap" jingle, but end with the signature Gap logo. Each was developed by a celebrity director and has a music theme.


"Khakis Rock," by directors Josh and Jonas Pate, uses the music of the Crystal Method and features an in-line skating and skateboarding performance. The second spot, "Khakis Groove," directed by Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola, includes a hip-hop dance performance to music by Bill Mason. A Louis Prima tune accompanies Matthew Rolston's "Khakis Swing."

The Gap kicked off the khaki ad wars in August 1993 when it ran a b&w print campaign showing such late greats as Gene Kelly, Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe.

With more office workers dressing casually, Dockers responded with a campaign for its Authentics targeted to younger males and themed "Khakis with a blue jeans soul."

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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