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Gap’s New Ad Plan: Market to Boomers, Not to Fickle Teens

NEW YORK — With its new multimillion dollar advertising campaign touting the slogan, "For Every Generation. Gap," the struggling retailer is out to win back all those loyal customers who loved them but left them.<br><br>And while that customer...

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NEW YORK — With its new multimillion dollar advertising campaign touting the slogan, “For Every Generation. Gap,” the struggling retailer is out to win back all those loyal customers who loved them but left them.

And while that customer could be anywhere from a newborn to 100, getting trendy teens back into the Gap isn’t a top priority.

“We understand we’ve alienated teenagers [but] we want to go after people who knew us and loved us,” said Kyle Andrew, vice president of Gap marketing.

Acknowledging that chasing teens with trendy merchandise is a no-win situation, she said the firm’s new strategy is: “Let Gap be Gap. Let’s not try to be trendy. We want to bring people back. To only say we’ll be 18-to-24 is too narrow. The Gap is much bigger, and we have to set our sights large.”

In an exclusive interview with Andrew and Trey Laird, president and executive creative director of Laird & Co., Gap’s new ad agency, they outlined the company’s strategy for its fall TV, print, outdoor and direct mail campaign that breaks globally this month.

“It’s the biggest we’ve done in quite some time,” said Andrew, declining to divulge the budget. For 2001, Gap and Baby Gap spent $102.3 million in U.S. media alone, according to CMR, a Taylor Nelson Sofres Co., although the amount was down 4.8 percent from 2000.

After taking a hard look at the brand, Laird said they realized it was bigger than any one age group, or category of clothing. “It wasn’t so much about fashion. It’s an icon. Gap is forever, we’re not chasing a specific trend. I know it sounds simple, but what we need to do is get the brand back on track. The Gap needed to be itself.”

In addition to the new ad campaign, the company is making an equally big push “to get the quality back to our clothes, in fabrics and details,” said Andrew.

Andrew said the company previously ran into the problem that people thought Gap was for someone else. “They thought it was too young, or old or boring. People need to feel ‘there’s something there for me.’”

This story first appeared in the August 6, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For the first time, the TV, print, in-store decor, packaging and direct mail efforts embrace the whole brand, rather than such specific categories as khakis, said Andrew.

Laird explained that the slogan, “For Every Generation, there’s a Gap,” was used many years ago, but it was never capitalized on. Furthermore, he admired and was influenced by Gap’s “Individuals of Style” campaign from the Eighties. “It was really the founding benchmark for Gap campaigns. There have been impactful TV campaigns, but the ‘Individuals of Style,’ for me coming into this, really summed up the brand. I felt it was important to acknowledge that, but to do it in a new way,” said Laird.

“The styling in the past was very head-to-toe Gap,” said Andrew. “Trey’s team has brought reality and authenticity. The clothes look like they’re worn and look real. It doesn’t look like a photo shoot where the clothes are pressed and steamed.”

To create the campaign, Laird recruited celebrities such as Willie Nelson, Whoopi Goldberg, Kelly Klein, Lauren Hutton, Salma Hayek, Polly Mellen, Wayne Gretzky, Alek Wek, Natalie Imbruglia, Christian Slater, Gena Rowlands and Sissy Spacek. The print ads were shot by Mikael Janssen in New York, London and Los Angeles and styled by Karl Templer, and the TV spots were directed by Peter Lindbergh.

The 30-second TV spots, which break Aug. 15, are focused on jeans and fit. In one, Shalom Harlow is shown stretching, wiggling and dancing to the music “Bend Me, Shape Me.” In others, ballet dancer Will Kemp dances to “Stuff Like That,” Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams do different guitar renditions of Hank Williams’ “Move it on Over,” and Baba Oje is shown roller skating and Djimon Hounsou is grooving to “Boom Boom” by John Lee Hooker. A combination of network, spot and cable TV will be used over a seven-week period.

For the print ads, Laird said, “We wanted to show it in a stylish way that’s authentic. People brought in their old Gap clothes, their own work boots. We didn’t want to bring anybody in and ‘Gap-ize’ them.” Kelly Klein, for example, brought a favorite lacy top to the shoot and styled her outfit one way, while others gave their Gap clothes a more rock ’n’ roll feel. “If you’re a rebellious 16-year-old, you’ll do it one way. If you’re seven, you’ll style it differently,” said Laird.

But if Gap is for everybody, who’s shopping Old Navy and Banana Republic?

“We’re making a different effort to separate these brands,” said Andrew. “You’ll always get people shopping all three brands. Old Navy is more family and value shopping. Gap can move up to be a more stylish place, and Banana Republic can move up to be an even more stylish.”

For fall, Gap wanted to focus on its point of difference and most important category, which is jeans. “It’s our biggest category and what we’re most well known for,” said Laird.

“Gap made a huge effort to get back on track product-wise,” explained Andrew. She said the company improved the quality and details on the line “and it’s what you’ll see in a premium line of jeans.” This fall, Gap will emphasize its stretch offerings, as well as new cuts and finishes. There will be a new signage program in all the stores, as well as hangtags touting Gap Stretch and a direct mail effort. The direct mail pieces also contain information on how to care for one’s jeans. “We want to take an authority position [in denim],” said Laird.

Laird has also designed a seasonal shopping bag that carries the new slogan and has a grid with all the images on it. The existing blue Gap shopping bags will continue to be used at stores.

As for print, Gap is taking out multiple page inserts in an array of magazines. “It’s the biggest we’ve done in quite some time,” said Andrew. As reported, Gap will run a 48-page outsert with the September Vanity Fair, costing a reported $1.1 million. On Thursday, a 28-page Gap insert will be polybagged with newspapers in the Gap’s top-10 markets. Twelve-page inserts will run in the September issues of Vogue, W, In Style, Marie Claire, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times Magazine, Interview, Rolling Stone and ESPN the Magazine. Singles and spreads will appear in about 30 magazines including Jane, Teen People, Elle and Allure. The outdoor campaign includes bus ads, billboards and walls in the top-10 markets.

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