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WWDStyle issue 04/13/2011

LOS ANGELES — Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. is amplifying its turnaround efforts with advertising might.

This story first appeared in the April 13, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The struggling Anaheim, Calif.-based company is taking to television, the Web, mobile phones, print publications and in-store displays with “Dress Irresponsibly,” a new ad campaign spotlighting branded merchandise available at PacSun from the likes of Fox, Hurley, Billabong and Volcom to connect with young customers by raising awareness of its fashion offerings. The campaign marks a transformation of PacSun’s marketing strategy from relying principally on in-store content to an expansive multimedia buy in order to recharge PacSun, which has been dragged down by same-store sales declines (negative 7 percent in the fourth quarter last year, the most recent reported) and a sales per square foot slide from $350 in fiscal year 2007 to $258 in 2010.

“By showcasing the best brands…we are furthering PacSun’s 30-year leadership position with our core enthusiasts and at the same time bringing in new customers to our world of authentic California lifestyle,” said PacSun chief executive officer Gary Schoenfeld. “ ‘Dress Irresponsibly’ is about enjoying life, friends and embracing one’s own sense of style.”

The new ad campaign “all starts from the big change that PacSun is going through right now,” said David Charles, a creative director at 72andSunny, the Los Angeles-based design and advertising firm that developed the ad campaign with PacSun. “Since the ceo Gary [Schoenfeld] joined, a lot of great changes have been made to elevate their product, and they finally needed something to elevate their branding as well.”

Charles’ fellow creative director at 72andSunny, Bekah Sirrine, explained the print ads are intended to shift the perception of PacSun from a T-shirts, bikinis and boardshorts resource to a place carrying a wide array of the latest fashions. In order to do so, ad images shot by Elizabeth Weinberg feature a cavalcade of models and action-sports athletes wearing branded apparel from summer and back-to-school collections. The print ads will break in magazines such as Nylon, Teen Vogue and Cosmopolitan starting today.

No fewer than 20 athletes, including surfers Rob Machado and Mitch Crews, skateboarders Levi Brown, Leticia Bufoni and Bucky Lasek, and motocross racer Ryan Dungey, chosen for their style and the brands they are sponsored by, took part in the ad shoot last month in Los Angeles. At the shoot, Machado said he mix-and-matches his outfits from the clothes he gets from Hurley, his sponsor. “I’m always seeing what’s coming out, something new that catches my eye,” he said, adding, while pointing to his get-up, “This is my standard right here: jeans, flip-flops, T-shirt and boardshorts.”

Bertrand Lagros de Langeron, who goes by So Me and has worked on music videos for Kanye West and MGMT, directed the television ads, which use Frank Sinatra’s song “Call Me Irresponsible” as a backdrop. Charles said So Me brings “authenticity” to the ads and the Sinatra song will help PacSun stand out from the “fast-paced indie rock” clutter by “slowing things down, in a sense, musically.” The ads are slated to run on Comedy Central, MTV and ABC Family, among other networks, and PacSun will be a corporate partner with MTV on its Video Music Awards broadcast airing live on Aug. 28.

The digital component of the ad campaign will center around a “Dress Irresponsibly” competition, in which people submit online photos exhibiting their style by clothing themselves with PacSun merchandise, and the person who submits the winning photo gets to style a shoot for Nylon magazine. “Our goal is that it will build a repository of awesome content to be in PacSun’s look book that will continue beyond the campaign,” said Sirrine.

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