Barbarian Nabs First Account Win After Long Dry Spell

L'Oreal's Essie nail polish brand names it agency of record

Essie names Barbarian global creative AOR. Essie

Barbarian announced it has been named global creative agency of record for L’Oreal’s Essie nail polish brand, a feat for the New York City shop that has been working to turn itself around since it took a sharp decline in 2015.

The Cheil Worldwide-owned agency will be in charge of brand and business strategy, advertising and digital innovation for Essie.

Barbarian CEO Cathy Butler told Adweek that Essie launched its review in November to look for an agency focused on digital innovation that could evolve and position the brand for the future.

“That is all under development now—to build an iconic brand [driven by] innovation,” Butler said.

The Essie account will be led by executive creative director Leo Leone, the former Edelman Digital employee who Butler hired in November.

Butler said for Barbarian that seeing a pitch from an “iconic brand” like Essie wanting to deepen its digital expertise was “an exciting one for us.”

During the pitch, Barbarian primarily focused on uncovering Essie’s core consumer. The client describes those consumers as “obsessies,” people who love the brand and trying out the various colored nail polishes it offers, according to Butler.

She declined to elaborate on how Barbarian will use its digital capabilities to reach these “obsessies.”

Essie spent $18.2 million on its marketing efforts in the U.S. in 2016 and $23.9 million during just the first six months of 2017, according to Kantar Media.

That’s a decent account win for Barbarian, which is still trying to bounce back from a tumultuous few years that saw a wave of executives and key clients, like Pepsi, depart. Butler herself was hired away from Digitas last April to help clean up the agency.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.