GroupM Takes 49% Stake in Target's Media Agency, Haworth

The Move Comes About Two Years After Target Initiated Discussions With Various Media Agencies

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Haworth, Target and Sports Illustrated created a 'minizine.'
Haworth, Target and Sports Illustrated created a 'minizine.'

WPP media agency network GroupM is set to take a 49% stake in small, Minneapolis-based media agency Haworth Marketing & Media, best known for its long relationship with retail giant Target.

Haworth's relationship with Minneapolis-based client Target dates back to 1970 and has come to define the agency over the years. Target was the shop's first client. Today, the firm handles the bulk of the retailer's massive media planning and buying account, which is a gem for any media agency.

But there has been chatter about how long the relationship between a small media agency and a giant retailer could last in this current media environment, given top marketers' need for new technology, data and digital resources used for more precise and automated targeting of people online. Last year, Target spent $1.7 billion on total advertising and over $700 million on measured media in the U.S.

For Haworth, the alignment means "full access" to GroupM's digital technology and trading tools, as well as a "global expansion platform" for the shop and its clients.

"We've admired what Gary and his team do for many years," said Irwin Gotlieb, global chairman of GroupM, referring to Haworth CEO Gary Tobey in a statement. "We believe we can add to the compelling Haworth proposition through GroupM's tools, technology, insights and trading scale. And in turn, GroupM's agencies and clients can benefit from Haworth's proven expertise in integrating brands into popular culture and content."

The move comes about two years after Target initiated discussions with various media agencies and called on Accenture to issue a blind RFI. At the time, people familiar with the matter said the retailer was inquiring about digital advice, and Target VP-Communications Dustee Tucker Jenkins told Ad Age that the request didn't impact its relationship with Haworth. "The media landscape is constantly changing, and to stay abreast of new trends, we have exploratory meetings with agencies all the time," she said at the time. "Target has a long-standing relationship with Haworth and recently signed a multi-year contract."

Haworth's seemingly unshakeable relationship with the retailer is an anomaly in such a volatile industry in which clients tend to move their business from shop to shop. But some have described the shop as uniquely influential thanks to its access to entertainment brands and celebrities. Haworth has a presence in Minneapolis and Los Angeles and among its other clients are Beats by Dre and Dreamworks.

GroupM houses four media agencies, including Mediacom, Mindshare, MEC and Maxus.

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