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DDB Canada wins marketing gig for Nordstrom

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As it gears up for its launch in Canada next year, Nordstrom Inc. has chosen an ad agency to lead its marketing efforts here.

DDB Canada announced on Wednesday that it has won the account. Two other agencies also pitched to become the agency of record for Nordstrom Canada. The retailer will open its first store in Calgary's Chinook shopping mall in the fall of 2014. Its first five locations will be in Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto.

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"We recognize that we're new to Canada and that we have a lot to learn before we open our first stores," Karen McKibbin, president of Nordstrom Canada, said in a statement.

The agency will be in charge of helping Seattle-based Nordstrom to build its brand among Canadian shoppers. And its work should be starting soon: Speaking at a Retail Council of Canada conference in June, Ms. McKibbin said Nordstrom was planning to launch an advertising campaign this fall – a year before its launch – in order to begin developing brand recognition among consumers here.

Omnicom Media Group will handle media buying and planning. (Both OMG and DDB are part of the global Omnicom Group Inc. network of agencies.) Nordstrom has worked with Omnicom in the U.S. for its media buying and planning since last year. The advertising agency relationship is a newer move for the retailer, which has not done much advertising in the U.S., and often produced ads in-house when it did. But that is changing as Nordstrom attempts to attract younger customers, and expand into an unfamiliar market.

In the spring, Nordstrom launched a campaign with the help of San Francisco-based agency Mekanism. The online videos feature young people dressed fashionably while engaged in quirky activities – a sport coat and pocket square for a man building a log cabin, for example. The point was to draw younger shoppers to the stores by presenting the Nordstrom style as "more attainable than you think."

DDB will be faced with extending that strategy to the Canadian market. Ms. McKibbin has said that part of building the brand here will be to get the message out about the stores' mix of merchandise at different price points.

Nordstrom's entry could also represent a strategic shift in the way media dollars are spent in retail advertising. When the U.S. campaign launched in April, Nordstrom's vice-president of marketing, Michael Crotty, told The New York Times that the company has been increasingly focused on digital advertising to the almost total exclusion of other media. He said Nordstrom spent more than $36-million (U.S.) on advertising in 2012, with almost all of it on digital.

DDB's Vancouver office will take the lead on the Canadian account.

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Nordstrom spokesperson John Bailey declined to comment, saying the company is "not prepared to reveal our plans as of yet" for the Canadian market.

DDB Canada also declined to comment, noting that the agency is "in the midst of strategic development and ideation for creative."

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