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Levi’s Forges New Agency Model With FCB, House Worldwide

Article - New York, 06 February 2014

After parting ways with Wieden & Kennedy in October, Levi's has enlisted Interpublic's FCB and House Worldwide to handle global marketing for the brand.

Levi's said that it and Wieden & Kennedy parted ways mutually, and that the company felt the need to evolve its existing model. "This new tailor-made structure will enable us to better manage the overall creative process with efficiency and efficacy," said a spokeswoman. There was no formal review.

The work will be developed by teams from FCB and House Worldwide working together as one team. The company said that is not a lead-agency and follower-agency model. "This is a new model of one team built from the best creatively that FCB and The House Worldwide has to offer from inside the U.S. and around the world, working seamlessly together on the campaigns," said a spokeswoman. "It makes sense to source creative talent from a broad spectrum of markets as well as the U.S. for a global brand of the stature of Levi's." Omnicom's OMD remains the company's global media agency.

House Worldwide was founded in March 2013 by former Publicis Worldwide chief operating officer Richard Pinder and is a venture that promises to connect marketers with a global network of partners that include Naked Communications, Kitchen 8 in Singapore and Rhino Worldwide in Houston, among others.

The team will include creative and account teams from FCB San Francisco and Los Angeles, who will work with the House Worldwide's network of teams that include ChinaMadrid in Spain and CumminsRoss from Australia. Dominic Whittles, who runs FCB's San Francisco operation, will oversee North America, while Mr. Pinder will handle international markets for Levi's.

"We are very excited about this new model," said Levi's Chief Marketing Officer Jen Sey. "We're getting handpicked creative talent from FCB and the House network at both the global and local-market level. This model will provide us with the efficiency and consistency we need as a global brand as well as the means to drive relevance around the world by accessing top‐notch local talent when we need it."

Jennifer Sey
Jennifer Sey

Prior to Wieden & Kennedy, the brand worked with Publicis Groupe's Bartle Bogle Hegarty. When Wieden took on the American account for Levi's, BBHremained the agency for Europe and Asia. The agency completely parted ways with Levi's in 2010.

Levi's has gone through a number of senior-management changes, including marketing executives, in recent years. The company in August promoted Ms. Sey, its then-senior VP of e-commerce, to the role of global chief marketing officer. She replaced Rebecca Van Dyck, who left Levi's in February 2012 for a marketing post at Facebook. During her 10-month tenure at Levi's, Ms. Van Dyck oversaw the launch of the brand's first global campaign, "Go Forth."

It's not yet clear what the creative from FCB and House Worldwide will entail. A Levi's spokeswoman said that "the Levi's brand is about the spirit of authenticity and self-expression. That is at the heart of 'Go Forth', and that spirit will live on. That said, we are also seeking to bring an optimistic and product focused approach to all that we do."

For FCB, the win comes after its new CEO, Carter Murray, who joined in September, has made a number of executive changes. They include the recruitment of former Publicis execs Chris Shumaker and Nigel Jones, FCB's North American chief marketing officer and worldwide chief strategy officer, respectively. The shop also named Morgan Shorey, also a Publicis alum, as senior VP-strategic business development.

The Levi's is one of the first major wins on Mr. Murray's watch. Prior to his arrival, FCB picked up Aramark and retained Kmart, while adding some of Kmart's fashion-marketing business.

Despite its iconic status as a brand, Levi's is not a big media spender. The company spent about $39.4 million on U.S. measured media in 2012, roughly the same as 2011, according to Kantar Media.