Retailer Talbots Picks MullenLowe Boston for Fall Campaign

By Patrick Coffee 

Classic women’s retail chain Talbots has chosen MullenLowe to handle a campaign set to launch this fall in tandem with its 70th anniversary.

The IPG network’s Boston headquarters will handle strategy, creative development, media planning and PR for the integrated effort designed to re-establish Talbots’ position in the struggling retail market.

MullenLowe will use its “hyperbundled service offering” to grant its newest client “high levels of consumer engagement and an unfair share of attention in the marketplace.”

“Talbots has undergone an incredible transformation and achieved momentum throughout the last five years, and now we feel it is time to bring our creative expression and campaign strategy to the next level,” said svp of marketing Deborah Cavanagh, who added that MullenLowe’s “challenger mindset” facilitated “a strong understanding of our authentic brand mission and distinct brand voice.”

The company, established in Massachusetts in 1947, was acquired by private equity firm Sycamore Partners in 2012. That firm has been on a buying spree, picking up such retailers as Hot Topic, Belk, Coldwater Creek, The Limited and Nine West.

A recent Bloomberg feature characterized managing director Stefan Kaluzny as a Wall Street contrarian, calling Talbots his “most conspicuous deal” and highlighting the fact that the $193 million acquisition led to a sixfold return based largely on a decision to focus more exclusively on the chain’s target audience: older women with income to spare. It’s unclear whether Sycamore’s decision to go all in on a struggling industry will prove successful in the long run.

Talbots’ last agency review came 10 years ago, when it picked Publicis as AOR after a decade with Arnold. And the company is in comeback mode. According to the Kantar Media, Talbots spent just over $11 million on measured media in the U.S. last year; its 2015 marketing budget was a fraction of that total at less than $200,000.

The fall campaign will coincide with the client’s 70th anniversary and aim to present a new face of Talbots to the public.

“Our MullenLowe team is excited to be working with an amazing group of new leaders at Talbots who are driven to transform perceptions of the brand and to deliver an inspiring message to their audience,” said MullenLowe svp and group account director Rebekah Pagis. “We’re proud of the work we’ve developed together and sure that the market will be surprised by the spirit and confidence of the modern Talbots brand.”

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