Page 2 of 2Also in the statement, Tom Blessington, an agency partner and managing director in Wieden, Portland, said: "It is never easy to part ways with a client. We are proud of our … history with Target and wish them the best."
Susan Hoffman, executive creative director in Portland, added: "It was a great creative opportunity to work with such an iconic brand. We love the pace and the dynamics of working in the retail space."
Wieden executives declined to comment further, but industry executives suggested that the relationship was strained after Mr. Francis left. Wieden had worked closely with him, and his exit sparked debate over the company's marketing direction.
In the absence of a CMO, VP-creative Liz Elert, an alumnus of such retailers as Gap and Victoria's Secret, has been leading the effort, according to industry executives. Ms. Elert, a newcomer to Target , and Wieden are said to have butted heads.
"It's safe to say there's not a single factor we would point to," said Katie Boylan, a spokeswoman for Target . "At this point, we're focused on trying to innovate and tell the Target story in the most creative way possible."
It's not clear whether the mass marketer will look for a new lead agency or return to a multiagency strategy. Ms. Boylan said that Target would be relying on a mix of internal and external talent. It has worked with a variety of agencies, including Haworth, Olson, AKQA, Huge and Mother .
Ms. Boylan declined to name specific agencies that Target works with now.
"What's important is making sure we have the right mix of talent. … The media landscape is evolving quickly. We're also making sure we have the right agencies for the right parts of our business," Ms. Boylan said. She also would not comment on the status of Target 's CMO search but said that the model will leave room for whoever fills the post "make adjustments along the way."
The approach was decidedly upbeat when Target first hired Wieden in February 2006 to handle select creative projects. Early executions included "Happy Together," showcasing how college students could decorate their dorm rooms. A few years into the relationship, the agency refined the marketing message for a recession mentality, evaluating the resonance of the tagline: "Expect More. Pay Less."
It took a few tries to get the tone right. The short-lived "Collections," featuring actor Alan Cox, was not distinguishing. And some of the work from Wieden for the 2009 holiday season lacked joy and warmth.
But the "Life's A Moving Target " campaign that followed hit the right note, as did the "Christmas Champ." Ms. Boylan said it would be premature to discuss whether either of those campaigns would remain a part of Target 's mix.
Wieden's last output for the brand is still to be determined. The recent ad "Done," which was part of the "Santa has Elves. You have Target " campaign, was ranked one of the season's most effective spots by AceMetrix.
"We'll be having conversations about work and transitioning in the coming days and weeks," Ms. Boylan said.