Levi to Cut TBWA/C/D’s Retail Role

Client Intends to Tap Roster Boutiques as It Shifts Advertising Focus
SAN FRANCISCO–Levi Strauss & Co. is expected to call upon its “boutique and design shops” to help step up its brand presence in retail outlets, as it seeks to end a sales slump.
TBWA/Chiat/Day, which now handles most of those duties, is expected to step back and give more attention to creating a fall campaign that puts Levi’s jeans in a more “sexy, sophisticated” light, said sources.
In a move to rekindle interest from department stores and their buyers, Levi Strauss & Co. executives plan to put additional energy into direct-to-retail efforts this year.
“We need to upgrade our overall in-store presentation, simplify the shopping experience and establish more distinct personalities for our jeans brands,” said Sean Dee, director of marketing for the Levi’s brand in the U.S. Levi will probably turn to roster shops such as Swirl, San Francisco, for those tasks, said Dee.
Levi last week reported a 13 percent drop in 1998 sales to $6 billion, from $6.9 billion in 1997, primarily due to a downturn in its jeans business. The company said it intends to close 11 factories and lay off about 5,900 workers.
The retail emphasis is a significant change from recent brand efforts for Levi’s, which have taken a cocky, and occasionally grungy, approach.
Dee emphasized that Levi likes to work with a number of agencies, and denied that TBWA/C/D will play a lesser role. He added that one of the shop’s new assignments will be to help grow Levi’s L2 jeans. These products, which haven’t received much support, are found in discount outlets, such as Sears.
TBWA/C/D executives declined comment on the ad duties, but said the agency hired Kieran Hannon from Saatchi & Saatchi, San Francisco, as U.S. account director for Levi’s, a new position.
Separately, Levi shop Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, lost a significant member of its Dockers team with last week’s exit of senior vice president, group creative director Chris Shipman, who had worked on the account for two years. No immediate replacement was named.