Lee Jeans’ Pan-European Account Fits Fallon’s Plans For London Office

Having won its first overseas business last week–the Pan-European account for Lee Jeans–Fallon McElligott may open its first international office as early as next month.
The $20 million account, for which Fallon had been seen as the leading contender [Adweek, April 13], gives the Minneapolis agency a strong starting position as it heads into the European arena. The agency beat incumbent Grey Advertising; Abbott, Mead, Vickers/BBDO; and Duckworth Finn Grubb Waters, all based in London, for the business.
Lee’s Pan-European account encompasses Italy, Germany, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the Nordic countries. Media planning and buying will be handled by CIA in London.
Lee Jeans, Europe, is a subsidiary of VF Corp., whose jeans portfolio also includes Wrangler, Maverick and Old Axe. Fallon already handles the Lee Apparel Co. in the US. Agency and company officials, however, said the win was based more on ideas than on existing account relationships.
“[Fallon’s U.S. work] was a bonus, but it was not a big factor in the decision,” said David Smith, VF Europe’s marketing director. “What we were looking for was a new idea.”
Another major factor was Fallon’s previously announced intention to open an office in London regardless of the outcome of the review, said Fallon president and executive creative director Bill Westbrook.
“Lee clearly wanted a European agency,” Westbrook said. “We told them in no uncertain terms that we were opening an office in London.”
Smith said the management team Fallon is currently assembling–including, he said, Robert Senior, joint client services director at London’s TBWA Simons Palmer; Michael Wall, a board director at the same agency; and Laurence Green, account planner at Lowe Howard-Spink, London–gave the client confidence in the agency’s commitment to international expansion.
Senior, Wall and Green were not involved in the pitch because they are still under contract with their respective agencies, Smith said. He said he expects Fallon’s London office to be running “in principle” by May.
Westbrook would not comment on staffing specifics for the office. He did confirm, however, that the primary staffers will come from the UK.
“It’s a rich market over there,” he said. “I think [the primary staff] will be from Europe.”
The agency is not currently involved in any other international pitches, Westbrook said. But he hopes the Lee win will be the anchor that generates interest in the startup office from other potential clients.
Lee Jeans’ Pan-European account will be handled out of Minneapolis for the first few months and then be moved to London later in the year. It is unlikely any of the agency’s Minneapolis staff will be transferred to London, Westbrook said. That includes Westbrook, who reiterated his intention to step back this year from day-to-day management of the agency’s creative department.
Agency chairman Pat Fallon has expressed interest in international expansion for more than a year [Adweek, April 7, 1997]. He has repeatedly maintained that the agency can grow internationally without having to become part of a global network.