Crate & Barrel Review Enters Final Stage

2 shops vie for lead agency status

Crate & Barrel, which turns 50 this year, is undergoing a makeover of sorts. In the fall, the company named new top leadership—including a new CEO—and now the home retailer is close to naming a new lead creative agency.

Two shops, which sources identified as TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif. and Mother in New York, remain in contention, with Crate & Barrel executives slated to visit each next week.

The finalists emerged from a handful of agencies that presented creative ideas to company marketing leaders in early March. The identities of the other shops could not be ascertained. A Crate & Barrel representative and the contenders declined to comment.

The winner will succeed longtime lead shop Dangel in Lake Forest, Ill., which split with the retailer last year. Dangel, whose past ads were honored by the design annual Graphis, had worked on the business since 2006.

In the past, Crate & Barrel, which is known for its housewares and home furniture, has spent relatively little on media each year—about $3 million in 2011, according to Nielsen. That’s because the advertising typically consisted of just print ads, with most of Crate & Barrel’s marketing dollars historically going toward catalogs and sales circulars.

Going forward, the media spend is expected to grow, to at least $10 million a year to start. Also, the mix of media channels will likely change as the brand seeks to attract younger shoppers. In short, Crate & Barrel seeks to better distinguish its brand in a category that often falls back on touting product selection and price points.

The company launched in 1962 as a 1,700-square-foot store in the Old Town section of Chicago. It now has more than 110 locations in the U.S. and Canada. German retailer Otto Group bought a stake in the business in 2008 and now owns 100 percent of it.

Key decision-makers in the review include incoming president Marta Calle, chief marketing officer Jennifer Olsen and Donna Speigel, creative director for brand communications and editorial.

Olsen is the relative newcomer in the bunch, having joined Crate & Barrel in July 2011 from the Piperlime unit of Gap Inc. Before Piperlime, she was director of marketing at the Gap’s Banana Republic. Earlier in her career, she worked at Disney and

Calle was named president in November, after seven years at Crate & Barrel offshoot CB2. In her new role, which she assumes next month, Calle will steer merchandising and marketing. The appointment came at the same time that COO Sascha Bopp was tapped to replace Barbara Turf as CEO, also effective in April. 

Speigel has been at Crate & Barrel since 2002. Before that, she freelanced and worked as a cd at Leo Burnett.