Mullen Faces Hanes Challenge

The merger between Mullen and Long Haymes Carr hit a rough patch last week as Hanes, a long-time client of the latter, threw its $10-15 million account into review.

“As our business has grown and evolved and the retail environment becomes more challenging, we want to assure ourselves that we have the best creative possible,” said Peggy Carter, vice president of corporate affairs for Hanes parent Sara Lee Branded Apparel.

The estimated $10-15 million business, held for nearly two decades by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Long Haymes Carr (now Mullen/LHC), will be reviewed in a competition restricted to roster shops of Sara Lee.

A decision on whether Hanes will employ a consultant to oversee the process has not been made.

Mullen/LHC has been invited to participate, Carter said. Agency executives, including CEO Joe Grimaldi, referred questions to the client. Neither a deadline for completing the process nor a list of participating Sara Lee agencies was available at press time, but Chicago agencies DDB and Leo Burnett, and Temerlin McClain in Irving, Texas, are perceived as front runners for the business Both the Hanes underwear and active apparel and Hanes Her Way hosiery will be included in the pitch.

The decision to call a review appears to stem mainly from client dissatisfaction over Mullen/LHC’s recent creative ideas for the brands. An agency team, led by chief creative officer Edward Boches, a few weeks ago concocted new ads which Hanes officials deemed lacking, sources said. Hanes’ senior managers, including CEO Paul Lustig, have been unhappy with Mullen/LHC’s creative product “for a couple of years” and want more “bold and aggressive marketing” which the new work did not contain, said a source close to the situation.

Insisting the review is unrelated to the January merger of Wenham, Mass.-based Mullen and Long Haymes Carr, Carter said, “The timing only has to do with us and our planning cycle. In fact, we think the merger is a positive.”

Sources begged to differ. “Hanes was furious over the takeover and in no way signed up for Mullen,” said one former agency executive who requested anonymity. Another Mullen/LHC client, Alabama Power, departed in the aftermath of the merger, which was mandated by agency parent Lowe Group, an Interpublic Group unit.