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Body Shop to Build Online Brand

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The Body Shop, a retail chain known more for its soaps and beauty products than its advertising, is going online—and a campaign may not be far off for the new e-commerce site.

The company's new Body Shop Digital division last week tapped Hoffman/Lewis in San Francisco to generate a brand strategy. Billings for the project were undisclosed, but the client said the job could lead to advertising work for the agency.

As part of the assignment, Hoffman/Lewis will identify a target audience and develop the online brand, which plans to be an extension of The Body Shop brand and an online destination for natural and organic products.

"The health and beauty market has undergone enormous changes in recent years," said Kathleen Watson, senior director of marketing for The Body Shop Digital. "Our planned entry into online retailing seemed an appropriate moment to pause and take stock strategically. Hoffman/Lewis' brand strategy skills and strong credentials in retail brands, both on and offline, make them ideally suited [to the work]."

Agency officials said Watson has been on the client side at several different companies—most recently at Internet startups—and that she was impressed with the shop's strategic work.

"That [strategy] is what Hoffman/Lewis is best known for," Watson said. "And they were excited to be approached by a brand with the history of The Body Shop."

"The Body Shop is a powerful brand name with a unique history and rich heritage," said Gail Piper, director of brand strategy for Hoffman/Lewis. Piper said the agency will compete if the online business decides to hold a full review for its ad account.

The Body Shop Digital was launched in April. The site will go live next spring. The venture faces competition in a crowded category that already includes such start ups as Beauty.com, Origins.com and OneBody.com.

The Body Shop is a personal care and beauty product manufacturer based in London. The chain has more than 1,800 stores in 49 countries. Its U.S. headquarters are in Wake Forest, N.C. The company currently handles its own advertising in-house.

Hoffman/Lewis was founded in 1985. It works with clients including McDonald's, Toyota, Bank of the West, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Horizon Organic, SelfCare.com and Software Technology Corp. Its annual billings exceed $85 million.