Value City Talks to Zimmerman

Zimmerman & Partners Advertising and Cliff Freeman and Partners are talking to Value City Department Stores about its esti mated $50 million account, sources confirmed.

Ad work for the chain has been done mostly in-house, but Value City named a new CEO in March, John Ross ler, and changes have been expected, sources said. Rossler was previously president.

The business includes Value City (2001 ad spending, about $40 million, according to CMR) and subsi diaries Filene’s Basement (2001 spending, $5 million) of Boston and DSW Shoe Warehouse (2001 spending, about $5 million) in Columbus, Ohio.

Both Value City and Filene’s Base ment are handled in-house in Columbus and Boston. SBC Advertising in West erville, Ohio, has DSW, which does mostly radio, on a project basis.

Myrna Reiss, vp of advertising for Value City, declined comment. Mike Levison, who holds the same post at DSW, said he was not aware the company was talking to any outside agencies.

Sources, however, said Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Zimmerman, partnering with Freeman, is expected to meet this week with Value City executives about a possible deal. Shop officials declined comment.

It was not known how far along discussions were. Value City was not known to be talking to other shops.

The alliance of Zimmerman and Freeman, which follows the agencies’ unsuccessful joint pitch for The Wiz account earlier this year [Adweek, July 1], represents another compatibility test between the two agencies. Zimmerman is looking to acquire Freeman this fall.

The Freeman courtship reflects CEO Jordan Zimmerman’s desire to add creative firepower and strategic expertise to his $700 million retail-advertising operation.

“Freeman knows great, attention-getting creative that draws people to a brand,” said a source. “Zimmerman’s approach is from the bottom up: Start on the store level and focus on what the store’s primary objective is, sales.”

Sources said a Value City victory is key to Zimmerman’s acquisition plans. “They have to win this to prove their DNA is compatible,” said one source. “They don’t have time for other choices.”

While the Freeman talks are ongoing, sources said Zimmerman’s flirtation with New York’s DiMas simo Brand Advertising has cooled. Sources said Zimmerman considered buying it and naming Mark DiMassimo chief creative if Cliff Freeman retires. “But he’d have to stick around for three more years until Cliff left,” said a source.