Cramer-Krasselt Chicago

In its first high-stakes finals since losing out in the $280 million Kia review in December, the shop believes that Payless continues to enjoy loyalty, and that customers really do like the store and its shopping experience. So the $580-million-plus independent shop will use what’s already on the shelves to make its fashion-value pitch, focusing on the fact that Payless is stocked with “great looking shoes,” as one source put it. Part of Cramer’s pitch is that its advertising should expand beyond its core target, which leaves out teenagers and older women. C-K’s senior Chicago management, including CEO Peter Krivkovich and ecd Marshall Ross, will make the presentation. The shop has no direct fashion experience, but cd John Carstens is reputed to have the largest shoe collection at the agency.

Martin/Williams Minneapolis

The shop’s strategy will merge practicality with affordability—stressing that even a customer who doesn’t shop there all the time can rush to Payless in a crunch for a pair of shoes she may only wear once. M/W helped a value-based discount chain seeking cachet once already, when it worked on building the Target brand in the mid- to late-1990s. It also worked with Staples when it moved from No. 2 to No. 1 in its category. The $375 million Omnicom Group agency could use a win, having lost an estimated $150 million in business since last summer, including E*Trade and Staples. Leading the pitch will be chief creative officer Tom Moudry and chief marketing officer Mike Gray.

Saatchi & Saatchi New York

The Publicis Groupe agency will emphasize style in its presentation, which perceives Payless as having an advantage over its big-box competition. The $2 billion office has taken note of the buzz generated by Star Jones wearing Payless at the Oscars last month and is expected to incorporate her into its pitch, though not necessarily in advertising. Also on the table: Should Payless sponsor fashion shows? This is the biggest account pitch for CEO Mary Baglivo and chief creative officer Tony Granger since they took the reins in October and the second time it’s made the finals—losing out in the last round of the Brahma Beer review. The shop’s work for other female-skewing, fashion-conscious brands (i.e. Olay) and retail (Toyota dealers) propelled it to the finals.