Columbia Sportswear Hires North for Fall 2014 Creative

BSSP still buying media

Creative work on Columbia Sportswear is returning to the brand's Portland, Ore., hometown, after spending some five years further down the Pacific Coast.

The marketer has hired Portland-based North to lead creative efforts for Columbia's centerpiece Fall 2014 ad campaign, following a review.

San Francisco Bay Area-based Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Columbia's lead agency since 2008, will not be developing new creative work for the client, but will continue to buy media. Before BSSP, the account was handled for more than two decades by another Portland-based agency, Borders, Perrin & Norrander.

Columbia spent $8 million across media in 2012, only about $1 million of that during the first and second quarters, according to Kantar Media estimates. It spent almost $5 million during the first half of 2013.

Columbia was looking for an agency that could produce ideas with potential for global scale, said Jeff Timmins, senior global brand director. “[North] clearly showed a really, really strong understanding of the brand today, and the heritage of it, and where the opportunity is to go tomorrow with it,” he said. “They’d done their homework.”

The review was conducted in recent weeks. The search included an original set of about 10 agencies with headquarters or offices on the West Coast, followed by creative rounds among seven agencies, and ultimately, a set of three finalists.

Columbia's CEO Tim Boyle, and chairman Gert Boyle, were both involved in the process, joining the company's marketing executives in hearing pitches from competing agencies. In recent years, chief executives have been increasingly showing up during agency reviews—a chore traditionally reserved for CMOs.

Sasquatch, another Portland-based agency, also came away from the review with project-based work on boot brand Sorel, owned by Columbia. The marketer is working with a third local Portland agency, Sockeye, on a 2014 campaign focused on selling insect-repellent clothing in Russia. The brand is not looking for a lead agency at this time, said Timmins. "This is an opportunity for us to test some additional agencies."

The full list of finalists in the review could not be immediately ascertained. BSSP was not invited to defend.

“BSSP was a great partner, they did a lot of really good work for us,” said Timmins. “At no point were we unhappy with their creative.”

BSSP’s ads for the brand included quirky faux product tests—starring kittens, of course—in 2012, and a cold-defying madman acting as the brand’s “anti-spokesman" in 2011

For many years, Columbia's ads featured Tim Boyle—and Gert Boyle, Tim's mother—as themselves, in tongue-in-cheek scenarios demonstrating the quality of their products. Showing an understanding of that classic Boyle family sense of humor was a key point of focus for North during the review, said executive creative director Mark Ray.

Does that mean the pair of Columbia executives will be making a comeback in the brand's ads? "We don't know about that," said Timmins. "Yet to be determined."

Recommended articles