Payless Meets With Creative Shops

Retailer seeks new lead agency

Payless ShoeSource is meeting with agencies about its creative business with the goal of hiring a new lead agency.

The review has reached the semifinalist stage, with Payless executives still in the process of meeting with six prospective shops. Once the meetings are completed, the retailer will select up to three finalists, said Dan Pearlman, managing partner and CEO of Bob Wolf Partners/TPG in Santa Monica, Calif., the consultancy managing the search.

Pearlman declined to identify the semifinalists.

The shoe retailer’s media spending exceeded $65 million last year, down slightly from about $67 million in 2010, according to Nielsen. In the first nine months of this year the total was about $45 million. Those figures don’t include online expenditures.

The search comes nearly a year after Payless parent company Collective Brands promoted Vincent DeSantis to svp and chief marketing officer. DeSantis, who assumed the role in January, joined the company in 2008 and was divisional svp of marketing before becoming CMO. Earlier in his career, he held brand management and marketing roles at General Mills and Sprint Nextel.

Payless split with previous lead agency Martin/Williams earlier this year and since then has employed shops on a project basis, according to Pearlman. Martin/Williams’ tenure on the brand began in 2005.

The assignment includes both traditional and digital advertising.

Media buying responsibilities are not part of the review and remain at Publicis Groupe’s Optimedia. Optmedia landed that business in 2008 after a review.

Payless, which is based in Topeka, Kan., expects to complete its search by February.