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Levi Strauss & Co., moving to rebuild one of the world's most powerful brands, has begun to tinker with the way it deals with the media, its ad agencies and other vendors.

"We're looking for ways to be smarter, better and to maximize our money and our clout," said Nancy Friedman, newly named VP-marketing services for Levi Strauss. "There is a huge opportunity for cost efficiencies."

In one of its first moves, the jeansmaker consolidated outdoor ad placement with Outdoor Vision, Los Angeles. Other agencies in the review were Outdoor Services, San Francisco; In'Outdoor, San Rafael, Calif.; and Outdoor Advocates, Alamo

Levi's traditionally allows its creative agencies to handle media as well. The company's ad agencies are TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., and Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco.


"This was really logical," said Ms. Friedman of the decision to combine the outdoor buying for all three of its brands-Levi's, Dockers and Slates. Previously, "we might even have been competing against each other" in bidding for outdoor space.

Last year, Levi Strauss spent $92.6 million in measured media, down slightly from the $100.1 million it spent in 1997, with $7.6 million of that going to outdoor.

Its outdoor budget for 1999 is not known, but Ms. Friedman indicated "more and more" of Levi's marketing spending will be heading toward outdoor, sponsorships and alternatives to traditional media.

Earlier this month, the marketer broke an outdoor campaign touting limited-edition clothing that duplicates the styles it designed for MGM's new "Mod Squad" movie.

One of the few national TV campaigns scheduled for this year is for Levi's L2 fashion jeans.

Ms. Friedman said Levi Strauss would allow media planning and buying to continue for the time being at its current agencies. However, the marketer wants to take greater control of media relationships.

As a move in that direction, the company hired Lloyd Weber, formerly manager-national media at Coca-Cola USA, as its first media director. Ms. Friedman said it would be up to Mr. Weber to determine how the company handles media in the future.


"One of the goals is to . . . use our leverage for placement and have better coordination between brands," she said.

Ms. Friedman, formerly VP-marketing research for Slates, said the changes are being made as Levi Strauss moves to implement its marketing focus as well as to recover from two years of market share and sales declines, including a sales drop of 13% for 1998.

In an effort to become more externally focused, the company has hired two additional outsiders for its new marketing services unit. Jonathan Browning, formerly VP-store design and visual merchandising at Guess? Inc., Los Angeles, has come aboard as director of retail program services, and Murrey Nelson is now director of corporate licensing, from VP-licensing at DKNY.

Levi Strauss veteran Mary Jane Luck has become director of corporate research, from director of research on Dockers, and Roy E. Edmondson has moved from director of global marketing to director of presence and publicity.

Ms. Friedman did not indicate whether the media changes foreshadowed any changes in Levi Strauss' relationship with its general ad agencies. A spokesman for the Levi's brand said Levi Strauss is enthusiastic about recent advertising proposals from TBWA.

The spokeswoman for Slates and Dockers also reaffirmed the marketer's relationship with those brands' agency, FCB.

However, there have been some changes on the teams that handle the three accounts at both agencies. Kieran Hannon recently was named account director on Levi Strauss at TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, succeeding Carisa Bianchi, who became president-CEO of the office.

Also, San Francisco startup Swirl has been assigned projects supporting retail

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