L.A. Times Moves to Heil-Brice

Turning the page on a campaign that stirred dissent within its ranks, the Los Angeles Times has moved its account from Ground Zero to Heil-Brice Retail Advertising.

Heil-Brice will break a campaign in the latter half of this year that emphasizes the newspaper’s classified advertising. The work will also aim to integrate the Times’ efforts for its online and traditional print products.

Heil-Brice principal Hal Brice said the win came less than two weeks after the Times invited his Newport Beach, Calif., shop to pitch in a closed review that already had at least four undisclosed participants.

Representatives at the Times could not be reached for comment at press time.

“We are a serious results-oriented organization, and the Times is looking for serious results,” said Brice, whose 14-year-old agency also handles pro basketball’s Los Angeles Clippers, International House of Pancakes and Ralph’s grocery chain.

While Brice noted the budget “has not been settled,” the paper reportedly spent around $5 million with Ground Zero since handing the Marina del Rey, Calif., agency its account a year ago.

Ground Zero’s campaign broke in early 2000 and was built around the theme “Connecting us to the Times.” The work was intended to juxtapose images from Southern California and around the world.

One ad, which showed bikini-clad women on a beach and Muslim women in traditional chadors, drew the ire of a local Islamic group, which condemned the paper for suggesting Muslim women are oppressed and marginalized in Los Angeles. Staffers at the paper circulated a petition at the time demanding that the ad be lifted.

Top brass at the Times initially stood by the ad, but quickly decided to pull it.

Ground Zero chairman Jim Smith was sharply critical of the paper’s decision to shift the account. “I think it is extremely sad and ill-advised that a once-noble newspaper would consign itself to classified ads,” he said. Ground Zero’s ads “had audiences applauding and cheering,” he said.

Heil-Brice creative director Chris Epting said the shop acted quickly for the pitch. “In just a few days we pulled something together that really matched what they were looking for,” he said. “We’re fast thinkers.”