Target to Consolidate $686 Million Media Account With GroupM

Retailer Had Been With Haworth for Decades, Will Handpick New Team During Transition Period

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Target worked with Haworth on the Grammys.
Target worked with Haworth on the Grammys. Credit: Haworth/Target

Target Corp. is moving its media and planning business to GroupM. The Minneapolis-based retailer, which spent $686.3 million on measured media in 2014, according to Ad Age's Datacenter, will transition its business from Haworth Marketing & Media, where its relationship dates back to 1970 as a founding client. Target started working with WPP-owned GroupM last year.

"Since bringing GroupM on board in 2015, we've been impressed with their team and industry-leading media and measurement capabilities. We're working with GroupM to build an incredible Target team and look forward to this next chapter together," said Kristi Argyilan, senior VP of media and guest engagement at Target, in a statement. She thanked Haworth for its lengthy relationship as a key partner in many iconic Target moments.

Over a three-month transition, Target will handpick talents from across the digital, ad-buying and analytic sectors of GroupM to form its own team. GroupM is known for providing such a service to other clients such as Chanel.

"Target has an unwavering commitment to improving its guests' experience and we will focus all of our talent, tools and insights to help them win," said Rob Norman, chairman of GroupM North America, in a statement.

Over the years, Target has explored other media relationships. Four years ago, the retailer put out a request for information for media agencies, but nothing new emerged. The company also told Ad Age last October that it was reviewing its shops as it fine-tuned its own in-house digital marketing and buying unit.

"I felt it was time to take Haworth in a different direction," said Gary Tobey, chief executive of Minneapolis-based Haworth, which also works with Ben & Jerry's, Beats by Dre and Dick's Sporting Goods. "As we seek to evolve our agency and explore new opportunities, we wish the Target and GroupM teams the best as they move forward."

Two years ago, GroupM took a 49% stake in Haworth. According to people familiar with the situation, GroupM is also in talks with Walmart. The $482 billion retailer hired former Target executive Michael Francis as a consultant in December. While at Target, and in a subsequent role at DreamWorks Animation, Mr. Francis worked with Haworth.

Walmart has been in talks with Haworth regarding taking over its media account, but those haven't come to fruition yet, a spokesman said. "We have had conversations with Haworth Marketing and Media," the Walmart spokesman said in an email. "They are a great agency with unique capabilities that could be an interesting partner in the future."

He added that Walmart is continuing to work with MediaVest through the end of its fiscal year, which ends Jan. 31, 2017.

Walmart recently pulled its media account from Publicis Groupe's Mediavest without announcing its next move; Haworth wouldn't be too much of a stretch, especially given Mr. Francis' relationship with the firm -- he's worked with the media shop for much of his professional career. GroupM also has a stake in Haworth's success. GroupM declined to comment.

Jack Neff contributed to this article.

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