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L.A. Gear Seeks Ad Agency to Kick Off High-Tech Line

October 31, 1990|BRUCE HOROVITZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

L.A. Gear is looking for an agency to fit the shoe.

The Los Angeles athletic shoe maker has quietly launched a review for an agency to create ads for a new, high-tech line of athletic shoe. Whatever agency is selected could eventually end up with the creative portion of the company's $68-million annual ad business.

"L.A. Gear wants its advertising to be the best there is," said Michael Albright, the former creative director of the Shalek Agency, who last week was named creative director of L.A. Gear. Although L.A. Gear briefly hired Ogilvy & Mather as its agency in 1986, that relationship lasted less than a month. Since that time, L.A Gear has created its own ads.

The move comes at a time when L.A. Gear faces mounting problems. Late last month, it reported that third-quarter earnings were off 35% from the year before. The company also projected that its fourth-quarter and yearly net income will be down from 1989. And while selling well outside the United States, its Michael Jackson line of sneakers has generally been a bust domestically.

But the real issue, ad executives say, is the simple fact that despite spending tens of millions of dollars, L.A. Gear does not have memorable advertising. While Nike has profited greatly from its "Just Do It" and "Bo Knows" ad slogans, L.A. Gear's slogan--"Unstoppable"--is less familiar.

At least half a dozen agencies--most of them on the West Coast--have been contacted by L.A. Gear. Among agencies in the running in Los Angeles are BBDO Worldwide and Dailey & Associates. Two San Francisco agencies, Mandelbaum Mooney Ashley and Goldberg Moser O'Neill, have been contacted. And the Minneapolis ad shop Fallon McElligott is also in the running.

Assisting in the agency search is the Los Angeles consulting firm Watts & Sedler.

Notably absent from the competition is Chiat/Day/Mojo, the Venice ad firm that has already tried its hand at creating ads for L.A. Gear's two biggest rivals, Nike and Reebok. In the past, Sandy Saemann, the executive vice president who oversees L.A. Gear's advertising, has been critical of Chiat/Day's work. Saemann was in Atlanta on Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

Whichever agency is tapped will likely be asked to create ads for the company's planned "Catapult" basketball shoe line, which features a special polyurethane compound that the company says increases the spring in shoes. L.A. Gear hopes to start advertising the shoes soon, although the Catapult will not be on the market until 1991. Ads could include a spot on the Super Bowl.

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