It’s Official: 5 Pursue Gap Planning

NEW YORK Clothing retailer The Gap today confirmed that five agencies are pitching the media planning portion of its estimated $100 million-plus ad account.

The review covers the main Gap label as well as sub-brands Gap Body, Baby Gap, Gap Maternity and Gap Kids.

The client identified the contenders as: Omnicom Group’s PHD (Gap’s buying incumbent), Aegis Group’s Carat, WPP Group’s Mediaedge:cia, Publicis Groupe’s Starlink and independent Palisades Media Group.

A sixth contender, Havas’ MPG, dropped out this week. Sources said it was probably due to a client conflict, but MPG did not return calls to clarify the situation. The client confirmed MPG’s withdrawal, but did not elaborate.

The San Francisco-based retailer has done much of its planning in-house. The client confirms that will continue, with the review winner serving as “planning partner,” a role that Publicis Groupe’s Starcom filled until parting ways earlier this year due to a conflict, a Gap representative said.

Gap ad spending in 2005 was approximately $100 million, per TNS Media Intelligence, down one-third from 2004 when spending reached almost $154 million. But sources said indications are The Gap would be increasing spending this year because executives there now believe last year’s media budget was too low. Sources said they expect ad spending to reach $125 million in 2006.

The next round of presentations is scheduled for mid-April, with a decision expected by early May, per sources. The client declined to confirm the presentation schedule or timing of the decision.

This story updates and replaces an item posted on April 6 with client confirmation of the review and an expanded contenders list.