Keds Review Takes Shape

Contenders Emerge; Local Shops Face Conflict Issues
BOSTON-Agencies have begun to surface in the review for the $10 million account of Stride Rite Corp.’s Keds division. Several of those invited to pitch are expected to decline, however, citing potential client conflicts.
Arnold Communications in Boston and Mullen in Wenham, Mass., have received pitch materials but are not expected to pursue the business due their relationships with Converse and Dexter Shoe Co., respectively, sources said. The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., and Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York also have been contacted but probably will not compete due to conflicts, sources said.
The shops receiving pitch materials that have no such dilemma are DeVito/Verdi and Weiss Stagliano Partners, both in New York; Eisner & Associates and Trahan, Burden & Charles, both in Baltimore; and WestWayne in Atlanta, sources said.
The contender list, which began with 10 shops, will soon be cut to about four finalists, sources said. Although Keds officials said a decision could be several months away, sources believe a choice may come within the next few weeks.
Keds vice president of marketing and new business development Mary Obana could not be reached by press time. The company was swamped last week by letters, calls and packages from dozens of agencies looking to get into the pitch, sources said.
The Lexington, Mass.-based company two weeks ago fired Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco, its agency of record for nearly three years. Sources said two factors contributed to the split: FCB’s decision to lay off director of business development Dave Byers, who ran the account, and the shop’s perceived unwillingness to put more female staffers on the business, a priority for both Obana and Keds president Joanna Jacobson [Adweek, April 19]. Obana recently said she is simply looking for a smaller shop closer to home.
Keds is No. 6 in the U.S. athletic footwear market, with about $200 million in 1998 sales, per Sporting Goods Intelligence. -with staff reports