McCann Gears Up for REI Work

Outdoor gear retailer Recreation Equipment Inc. has tapped McCann-Erickson’s Seattle office for an $11 million advertising trek aimed at bringing the 60-store chain to new heights.

The assignment, which propels agency billings over the $100 million mark, came after an open review that also included Seattle agencies DDB and Copacino, sources said. The former has handled media buying for REI; the latter created banner ads for the retailer’s Web site.

Prior to naming McCann as its creative agency, REI produced its ads in-house. Plans call for DDB to continue to place the media. McCann, though, will take over the online marketing activities that had been administered by Copacino.

“This is an account that every agency in Seattle would covet,” said Jim Walker, McCann’s executive vice president and creative director. He compared the project to the agency’s work with local bank Washington Mutual, which is also keen to establish a higher profile outside its home base.

“The thing that came through was our ability to export the culture [of Seattle],” said Walker. “We understand where the [REI] brand came from. This is one of the cool categories because people feel passionate about it.”

He added that REI wants a fresh campaign that will establish the 62-year-old retailer as a national brand and build on its annual sales of more than $620 million. The goal, he said, is to move the company from a product-driven orientation to one that is more market-driven.

The decision to switch directions in advertising follows the appointment of a new marketing executive at REI. Jim Poppins, named senior vice president of marketing in August after serving as a senior marketing executive for Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid division in Houston, said he was focused on bringing in a Seattle shop that was aware of the brand’s heritage in the area.

“We held a review and saw some truly outstanding work from the agencies that participated,” Poppins said. “McCann was able to demonstrate that they understood our brand.”

Poppins said the new work from McCann, which is expected to break in the first quarter, will focus on print, radio and outdoor ads, with no TV ads planned.