“We don’t have power,” Sean Dee jokes about his group of new media staffers at Levi Strauss & Co.. “But if we do well, we have a lot of influence.”
As global marketing media director at Levi’s, Dee’s influence can be felt by a legion of new media agencies and online publishers, who covet the business of one of the Web’s most cutting-edge marketers.
Since launching in 1994, Levi’s much-watched site has been the target of kudos and catcalls. It has evolved from an elaborate destination (featuring such off-topic elements as graffiti art) into a brand-focused site that includes archives of Levi’s ad campaigns, store locators and product and price information. Armed with an annual new media budget estimated at about $5 million, Levi’s has also branched into high-profile sponsorship, attaching its name to Streamland, a video-streaming site developed by the alternative music site SonicNet.
It’s been an action-filled ride for point man Dee, who just three years ago was plugging away in the account department at Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco, working mainly on the Levi’s account.
Inspired by the response from a Levi’s ad that featured an email address, he helped create a digital marketing department at the agency. Later he was recruited by Levi’s to set up a similar operation there.
Modest protests aside, Dee’s power in the ad community was been very much in evidence recently, as TN Technologies, Levi’s interactive agency of record, disintegrated and competitors jumped in to pick up the pieces. CKS Group, Cupertino, Calif., ultimately won the right to be Levi’s global strategic interactive agency of record following a review. But Dee emphasizes the strategic part of the relationship, noting it’s not likely to involve much creative execution. Those responsibilities are handled by the respective new media heads of Levi’s regional marketing groups.
As the world map on its homepage suggests, Levi’s has been moving toward more cohesiveness for its brands in different regions. Dee says the Web has been in the forefront of bringing together Levi’s many messages.
“The Web really forced us to say, ‘Hey, how are we targeting our brand?'” he explains. Now in his third newly created position in as many years, the “powerless” Dee will take what he’s learned from the interactive world and apply these insights to other media and other global markets.
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