Cliff Freeman Goes on Shoe-Shopping Safaris

NEW YORK The rituals of female shoe shoppers are put under documentary-like scrutiny in a new campaign for Value City Department Stores’ DSW Shoe Warehouse by Cliff Freeman and Partners.

The five-spot humorous campaign, which broke on March 12, is the first work by Cliff Freeman for the Columbus, Ohio, client. Lisa Rubisch of BOB Industries directed.

In “The Hunt,” a young woman enters the shoe store and checks out the merchandise. “The hunter has high hopes,” an English voiceover intones. “Patiently she waits and watches for her opportunity. There, she sees her prey.”

In “Feeding Frenzy,” women circle around a particularly desirable shoe. “The quickest and strongest will feed first,” the voiceover states. “While the more timid must wait their turn.” African safari-like music plays in the background.

Copywriter Laura Fegley said the idea for the campaign arose from watching how customers behaved in DSW Shoe Warehouses in Virginia and Florida. “We noticed really defined behaviors, which reminded us of the behaviors you see in the animal kingdom,” said Fegley, who was hired with her partner, art director Dawn McCarthy, in December from Merkley Newman Harty & Partners in New York primarily to work on the DSW account.

The duo watched about 100 National Geographic documentaries as research for the spots, and hired a voiceover talent who had documentary experience. The actors “didn’t need that much direction,” Fegley said. “The physicality of it all was second nature.”

The Beuno Park, Calif., DSW Warehouse where the ads were shot stayed open while the commercials were being filmed, and was rewarded with added business. “All of the talent ended up buying a lot of shoes,” Fegley said, adding the agency staffers and crew did as well. “I was trying on shoes until the very end,” she said. “It was kind of distracting, actually.”

The New York shop was assigned the DSW account in September. Previously, SBC Advertising in Westerville, Ohio, had handled the account on a project basis.

Other agency personnel on the campaign were chief creative officer Cliff Freeman, executive creative director Arthur Bijur and executive producer Clair Grupp. Dick Gordon and Lucas Eskin of Mad River Post in New York were the editors.

Campaign spending was undisclosed. Value City spent about $40 million in measured media on all of its store brands in 2002, per CMR. Approximately $6 million of that total supported DSW advertising, according to CMR.