Target CMO Shares Vision for Advertising, Media Agencies

Retailer Has Expanded Roster of Creative Shops

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With six months under his belt, Target 's new chief marketer is ready to articulate his vision for agency relationships and what he hopes his legacy will be.

At a media event celebrating Target 's 50th anniversary, Jeff Jones, who in April joined the retailer from indie ad shop McKinney, said he wants to inspire a "culture of ecosystem thinking" and "modernize" what marketing means at the retailer. To do that , he says he'll focus on user-experience design, embrace data, listen and connect with guests across a host of channels, and find new ways to harness Target 's advocates to speak on its behalf.

Jeff Jones

"We will test new ideas, learn from what fails and scale appropriately," Mr. Jones said. "The lines between products, services and marketing continue to blur. We will keep pushing ourselves to think in terms of content, not just campaigns."

As far as Mr. Jones' approach to agency relationships, he'll take a different tack from his predecessor, Michael Francis. Under Mr. Francis, Wieden & Kennedy was named Target 's first agency of record and eventually handled the bulk of the retailer's business. That relationship ended in January, after Mr. Francis left but before Mr. Jones came onboard. Mr. Jones said he believes a roster of agencies is the right approach for the retailer. Target is the 19th-largest advertiser in the country, spending $1.6 billion annually, according to Ad Age 's DataCenter.

"This brand has the right to work with the best creative agencies in the world," Mr. Jones told Ad Age . "When I look at the breadth of our business -- in one hour of one day we're thinking about healthcare reform and b-to-b marketing for our pharmacy business, in the next hour we're launching an exclusive artist relationship with Pink and in the next we're worrying about fashion and style and thinking about our partnership with Neiman Marcus, [and] at the holidays we talk about toys -- the breadth of the business doesn't set up well to have one agency that 's extraordinary at all facets of what we have to do."

I want to give all of us the best chance of success by having assignments that play to the sweet spot of what those agencies do," Mr. Jones continued. "I'm not willing to commit to [that roster being] two agencies or four or 50. We want to have flexibility."

Indeed, on the creative side, Target has already worked with 72andSunny on its holiday effort, Partners & Spade on its fall campaign and Spring, London, on the creative for its Neiman Marcus collaboration. It's also been working with MDC Partners' Mono, based in Minneapolis, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles.

Media, however, is one area where the retailer is sticking to a single agency. Despite issuing an RFI earlier this year, Mr. Jones said there are no media reviews in the works, and Haworth, an independent Minneapolis-based shop, remains its lead agency.

On the digital side, Mr. Jones said Target is always looking for experiments, though he noted that 's often less about a media relationship and more about partnering with technology companies in the mobile, social media and e-commerce space. The company circulated a request-for-information document related to e-commerce duties over the summer. Independent Olson is one of Target 's longstanding digital agencies. Most recently the shop supported the retailer's foray into shoppable video.

One area Mr. Jones is particularly interested in is "shoppable media," meaning video or print vehicles that encourage customers to immediately purchase products using various technologies. He highlighted the brand's recent "Falling For You" shoppable video series, and said he believes that 's the direction video is going. The three-part romantic comedy stars Kristen Bell, Zach Abel and Nia Long, along with 110 products across the retailer's home, beauty and fashion categories. This holiday season consumers will also be able to use a text-to-buy feature to purchase products shown in holiday commercials. And the retailer plans to expand its use of QR codes. For example, a Top 20 Toys display will feature QR codes that enable customers to buy toys from their smartphones without tipping off their children.

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