IPG Ties Keep Initiative Rolling

Pocketing its second big win in less than a month, Interpublic Group’s Initiative Media has landed Levi Strauss & Co.’s estimated $60 million broadcast buying business.

The addition of the San Francisco clothing marketer’s business follows the Los Angeles-based media agency’s successful defense last month of its $300 million AOL business [Adweek, Feb. 23].

The Levi’s win was triggered by family ties. IPG’s Foote Cone & Belding, San Francisco, handles creative for the client’s Dockers casual-wear brand, as well as its Levi Strauss Signature line of low-priced jeans, sold at Wal-Mart stores. Independent Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York is the creative agency for the flagship Levi’s brand.

“This was a strategic decision,” said client representative Amy Gemellaro of shifting the account from Omnicom Group’s OMD, which had handled the business since 2000. “Initiative is owned by Interpublic, as is FCB. And Initiative has a lot of terrific modeling and analytic resources.”

Gemellaro said print buying, which is handled by the creative agencies on their respective brands, is not affected.

“Their pitch was that they are really good at understanding brands, both from a research and buying standpoint,” added a source about Initiative’s successful courtship of the account. “And Levi’s is certainly a cherished brand.”

But it is also a challenging one: Levi Strauss & Co. has had seven consecutive years of sales declines.