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Memo Pad: Rocawear Goes Viral… American Media Acquires OK Magazine…

Eschewing its traditional print campaign for fall, Rocawear launched a new online marketing campaign on Thursday that will run through the end of the year.

Karmin on ThatsRocawear.com.

ROCAWEAR GOES VIRAL: Eschewing its traditional print campaign for fall, Rocawear launched a new online marketing campaign on Thursday that will run through the end of the year. The Iconix Brand Group Inc.-owned brand will seed the Web with 37 short, original videos featuring an eclectic mix of musicians, poets, artists and even a troupe of fleet-footed double-dutch jumpers.

The multicultural group of featured performers reflects the shift of Rocawear from a strictly urban, streetwear-focused brand towards a more modern and mainstream positioning that appeals to a broad spectrum of young consumers, said Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, co-founder and president of Rocawear.

This story first appeared in the June 24, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“We are a great American brand. We don’t envision ourselves as an urban brand or streetwear brand,” explained Jay-Z. “We wanted to show people how we’ve evolved and repositioned ourselves, without abandoning our original DNA.”

The videos feature participants wearing Rocawear and oftentimes incorporating music from Jay-Z. They include Taylor McFerrin (son of Bobby); rapper-DJ Jasmine Solano; the dance duo Les Twins; Wordspit the Illest, and the Dynamic Diplomats of Double Dutch.

“It’s all walks of life. When I played the Glastonbury music festival people said a hip-hop artist couldn’t play a rock festival. But culture isn’t segmented like that any more. There’s so much cross-pollinization and the same thing is true for clothes,” said Jay-Z.

The first video that went up Thursday features the musical duo Karmin, who hit it big on YouTube — they’ve racked up 23 million views for a cover version of Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now—and were recently signed to Epic Records. A “That’s Rocawear” logo serves as the tag line on all the videos.

“The landscape of urban culture has changed dramatically over the past two to four years — it’s not as obvious as it used to be. Who would have expected that our competition would now be Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister and Aéropostale?” said Jameel Spencer, chief marketing officer of Rocawear.

The remainder of the videos will be rolled out through the holiday season. All of the videos will live on a new site at ThatsRocawear.com. Additionally, the videos will be incorporated into each participant’s own online presences, such as their individual YouTube channels or Facebook pages.

“I think that’s where our consumer is moving. Everyone is Internet-savvy and spending a lot of time online and that’s where our focus is now,” said Jay-Z.

In another effort to burnish the brand with tastemakers, on Monday Rocawear will open a pop-up shop at 201 Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s NoLIta neighborhood. Rather than sell merchandise, the space will serve as a brand showcase and the company is inviting celebrities, bloggers, radio personalities and students to come in and tape testimonials on their impressions of the brand. These videos will also be posted to ThatsRocawear.com

“People are often surprised at how much we’ve changed. They’re like, ‘That’s Rocawear?’” said Spencer.

— DAVID LIPKE

OK FOR AMI: “For us, OK Magazine will be profitable when we take it over,” said American Media Inc. chief executive officer David Pecker, who acquired the celebrity weekly from Northern & Shell on Thursday. Pecker’s statement is particularly noteworthy because he’s talking about a magazine that has reportedly lost more than $200 million since it launched in the U.S. in 2005. Year to date, the title is down 3 percent in ad pages, to 491, according to Media Industry Newsletter.

Pecker said it will be easier for AMI to make the magazine work because he will use the company’s existing structure to save money in printing, distribution and back office functions. “For us, we’ll take OK, plug into our wall socket and it’s ready to go,” said Pecker, who also publishes the National Enquirer, Shape and Star. He declined to talk about how much he paid for OK.

Staffers at OK began interviewing for their jobs within hours of the announcement Thursday. “We don’t know how many will come over yet,” he told WWD. Pecker said buying OK means tapping into a younger audience and inheriting its 800,000 circulation. “The tag line is ‘the magazine the stars trust,’” Pecker said. “We’ll keep that exact point of view. With OK we get something different. We don’t have credentials for the Academy Awards, Tribeca Film Festival…now we will.”

— AMY WICKS

TOMMY MOVE: Tommy Hilfiger’s senior vice president of communications, Marybeth Schmitt, is leaving her role at the brand, but will continue to serve as a consultant. Hilfiger is moving the position of global communications head to Amsterdam, where the company is based, and is currently conducting a search to fill that role, which will report to Avery Baker, the Amsterdam-based executive vice president of global marketing and communications.

Schmitt has been with Hilfiger for the past four-and-a-half years and, prior to that, held senior communications positions at Kate Spade, Gucci and KCD. “As a member of the company’s senior leadership team, Marybeth has been a key contributor to the successful repositioning of the brand in the U.S.,” Baker said.

— MARC KARIMZADEH

DIFFERENT TIMES: The New York Times will launch a new Sunday section this weekend, redesigning and renaming its Week in Review section The Sunday Review. For years, The Week in Review has been home to Big Picture pieces from the newsroom in the front, and editorials and opinion pieces in the back. In the new section, news pieces and opinion pieces will share space throughout. “The main changes are about packaging,” said executive editor Bill Keller at a press briefing Thursday.

“The big conceptual change is rather than having four pages of this and four pages of that, let’s see if putting them together makes them both better,” said editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal. “And we think the answer is rather obviously yes.”

Rosenthal said The Sunday Review section “doesn’t look like the other pages in the Times — the columns are shifted around, the blurbs are different, the bylines are different, we wanted to make it look different.”

Though the changes are largely cosmetic, there is some practical change for the paper’s staff. The editorial section and the newsroom section are entirely separate entities and Sunday Review — which will be ultimately controlled by Rosenthal and his deputy, Trish Hall — will involve some integration of the two.

“We have never before sat down together and planned coverage and that’s what we’re doing here,” said Rosenthal, referring to the newsroom and the editorial department. “We’re doing it with lots of safeguards.” One safeguard: a piece by the newsroom will come with the label “News analysis” and an opinion piece will be labeled, obviously, “opinion.”

Why has the Times decided to redesign this now? Bloomberg View, which launched last month, obviously seems to play a major role.

“The area of opinion is an area that The New York Times has always played a big part in,” said Rosenthal. “People are competing with us all over the place in new ways that are very different from what we are used to before online and new ways that we are more used to. Bloomberg News, for example, is more of a traditional kind of a thing. But there are people all over the place with the money and desire to compete with us, so we felt it was time to do our thing bigger and better.”

The Times introduced the section to about a dozen media reporters at a press briefing in The New York Times Building on Thursday morning. It was an unusual step for a paper whose editors have made it a point of pride to speak to their readers first—not their critics. Just how unusual was it? When Keller walked into a conference room on the Times Building’s 15th floor a few minutes before the briefing began, he said, “This is so goddamn weird.”

— JOHN KOBLIN

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