If Levi-Strauss’s hiring of Paul Bay as its first director of media
planning and buying came as any surprise (Media Business, last week), it
is that the company did not have one already. The move indicates a shift
in direction for the fashion giant, but it also continues to blur the
line between agencies, clients and media owners.
Bay says he has no plans to change the agency line-up, the keystone of
which is Motive, so Levi’s clearly isn’t worried about a lack of media
savvy. Its decision is more likely to be linked to a desire to take
charge of its brand identity.
Patrick Morrison, who heads the creative media unit at Manning Gottlieb
Media, comments: ’I think Levi’s is aware that it has been undermined by
the likes of Diesel and The Gap, and wants to regain the higher ground.
It is developing retail initiatives across Europe and if it is going to
reposition the brand, it needs to make sure its media strategy is spot
Morrison believes it is no coincidence that Bay will also get involved
in online activity. ’As the internet is a truly global medium, you have
to make sure it dovetails with the rest of your activities, otherwise
you could do all sorts of damage to your brand identity.’
Levi’s is not the first company to conclude that an inhouse media guru
is essential. Nike, Vauxhall, Procter & Gamble, Swatch and SmithKline
Beecham all have inhouse media people to squeeze maximum value out of
media budgets and match the buying strategy with brand-builders’ goals.
But what does this mean for the sales function? Does it enable sales
people to stick two fingers up at the media agencies and deal directly
Well, yes and no. Martin Corke, group sales manager at IPC Music &
Sport, says: ’It depends on the client. Often, the inhouse media contact
acts as an interface between the brand managers and the agencies, taking
ideas and tuning the media strategy to reflect them.
’But some media directors are almost dictatorial with agencies, putting
a plan in place and then leaving them to execute it and collect the 15
per cent commission. Fashion clients, in particular, like to make
decisions themselves, based on their opinions of the ideal environment
for their brand.’
While sales people may not be able to leapfrog the agency and convince
an inhouse media director to put them on the schedule, they can argue
their case. ’It’s important not to be pushy, but they may see you on the
basis that it will be informative,’ Corke adds.
IPC also has a policy of approaching clients with an ’alternative’
schedule after the original plan has been executed, rather than trying
to get on at the front end. ’You give them a mock schedule and say,
’Last time you advertised on TV but this is how you could do it
Now he’s handling a fashion icon like Levi’s - however much competition
it may have - Bay can expect his phone to ring constantly.