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L.A. Gear Gives BBDO Much of Its TV Ad Work : Marketing: The sneaker maker, which had been handling creative chores itself, wants a change of image.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

L.A. Gear, eager to establish an advertised image that pleases both sneaker buyers and Wall Street investors, handed much of its television ad business to the Los Angeles office of the agency BBDO Worldwide.

Executives of L.A. Gear and the agency declined to reveal the specifics of the agreement. But industry executives estimate that BBDO could initially pick up about $15 million in annual billings, with the potential for much more.

“Between their team and ours, we can rewrite the rules,” said Michael Albright, creative director at L.A. Gear. He said L.A. Gear selected BBDO because “they’re an international presence and showed us very strong creative work.”

Executives from BBDO declined to comment, referring all calls to L.A. Gear.

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Until now, the nation’s No. 3 sneaker maker--which has been struggling with soft sales and disappointing earnings--has created its own ads. That includes the slogan “Unstoppable,” which executives say will be scrapped. L.A. Gear will at least temporarily continue to create print advertisements.

Another firm, New York-based Vitt Media, will continue to place L.A. Gear’s broadcast and print ads. Overall, L.A. Gear spends more than $60 million annually to create and place advertising.

For BBDO, which also creates ads for Apple Computer, the win represents an opportunity to create high-profile spots for another client. L.A. Gear’s need for a strong advertised image has never been greater. Said one L.A. Gear official who asked not to be named, “We have to out-Nike Nike.”

Industry analysts say the agency selection is a good one. “TV advertising and promotion is becoming increasingly important in the footwear industry,” said Gary M. Jacobson, analyst at the New York investment firm Kidder, Peabody & Co. “This can only help them.”

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L.A. Gear stock jumped $1.50 Friday to $15.125 on the New York Stock Exchange. The agency selection, however, had not been publicly announced.

Some BBDO spots could be airing in less than a month. The agency’s most pressing mission will be to create an ad for LA Gear’s new high-tech line of basketball performance shoes, “Catapult,” to air during the Super Bowl.

The agency review set off a flurry of inquiries in late October by dozens of West Coast agencies. BBDO was one of four finalists.

Perhaps the most surprising agency to make the cut was the year-old San Francisco creative boutique, Atlas Citron Haligman & Bedecarre. “We were the long-shot new kids on the block,” said Chairman Jeff Atlas.

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