L.A. Shops Chasing Merged Eyewear Retailer

Eyewear retailer Vista Eyecare is conducting an agency search for its estimated $9 million account, and expects to have a short list of five or six shops from Los Angeles and the Southeast by the end of this week.
The Lawrenceville, Ga., company was known as National Vision Associates until last year, when it acquired three competitors: New West Eye Works, Frame-n-Lens and MidWest Vision. It has operated its eyecare centers out of Wal-Mart retail stores, but the newly acquired units are mostly freestanding sites in malls and strip malls.
The National Vision Associates account had been handled by Pollak Levitt Nel Advertising, Atlanta, which has chosen not to defend. New West agency Kovel/Fuller and Frame-n-Lens agency Grey Advertising, both Los Angeles, are expected to pitch separately for the unified business, said Kris Felling, the client’s director of marketing. MidWest Vision’s advertising had been handled in-house.
Pollak’s chief operating officer, Rob Austin, said his shop differed with the client over creative strategy and will be better off pursuing new business.
“Since we have merged four companies, we thought this would be the right time for re-evaluating our creative,” Felling said. “We are looking at agencies to see our business as it is now, not as it was.”
Felling said it is possible the business could be split between two shops, with one handling the Wal-Mart “host locations” and the other getting the stand-alone units. “They require two different marketing techniques, and it’s quite possible that will require two different [agencies],” said Felling.
Vista Eye Care operates 930 stores, split roughly in half between the two operating units, and is the second-largest eyewear retailer in the country. According to recent company reports, the Wal-Mart centers provide the majority of profits.