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Converse Drafts Modernista!

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Modernista! has been selected to relaunch the Converse brand in a nationwide ad campaign scheduled to break early next year.

"We want to help make Converse relevant to a new generation" and heighten brand appeal with consumers 12-22 years old, said Modernista! co-founder Lance Jensen.

"It's not so much a relaunching of Converse as it is the launch of a new Converse," said Cheryl McCants, director of marketing and communications for the North Reading, Mass., client, which was purchased during Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this spring by Footwear Acquisition. In June, the new ownership installed Jack Boys, an executive with experience in Converse's sales ranks, as CEO.

In the late 1990s, Boys headed worldwide marketing for outdoor apparel company The North Face.

Modernista! was hired last week following a review of undisclosed agencies based on the "edge and youthful spirit" displayed by the shop in recent campaigns, McCants said. Notable efforts of late from Modernista! include multimedia pushes for MTV (the cable network is humorously likened to a sexually transmitted disease) and the Gap.

Spending for Converse was not disclosed. However, sources said the initial budget will likely be in the $5-10 million range.

Pyro Brand Development, a unit of Dallas shop The Richards Group, is the last shop to have worked for the Converse brand, launching an under-$1 million print effort early in 2000. Converse has had no measurable ad spending so far this year, according to CMR.

Client spending a decade ago, when its account was handled by Boston shops Ingalls and later Houston Herstek Favat, was in the $30 million range. Past campaigns featured basketball stars Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Larry Johnson. The latter appeared in drag as "Grandmama" in memorable ads.

Creative strategies for the upcoming campaign from Modernista! and specific media plans are still being worked out, Jensen said.

Converse is looking for an ad launch in early 2002 in "all types of media," beginning with print and billboard work, McCants said.

In 2000, Converse ranked ninth among athletic footwear brands with domestic sales of $145 million and a market share of less than 2 percent, a 10 percent drop from the previous year, according to Sporting Goods Intelligence.