Target Out Talking to Media Agencies

Retailer Spends Over $1 Billion Annually; Says Search Won't Affect Current Relationship With Haworth

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Target has sent out a request-for-information to a number of media agencies, Ad Age has learned.

Industry executives say the company contracted tech consultant Accenture to handle the process of reaching out to shops, initially delivering a "blind RFI" that masked the retailer's name. Even a portion of Target 's media account could be massive -- the company spends over $1.5 billion in measured media, according to Ad Age 's DataCenter.

Target VP-Communications Dustee Tucker Jenkins told Ad Age that the information request doesn't impact its media agency of record, Haworth Marketing & Media. "The media landscape is constantly changing, and to stay abreast of new trends, we have exploratory meetings with agencies all the time," she said. "Target has a long-standing relationship with Haworth and recently signed a multi-year contract."

The retail giant's relationship with Minneapolis-based Haworth dates back to 1970. Target was the agency's first client. Today, the independent firm handles all of the retailer's media planning and buying except for newspaper activation, which is handled in-house. It's a large and long-standing piece of business for an independent media shop with just over 100 staffers.

"We have one of the greatest client-agency relationships out there, and I don't think it's ever been better," said Haworth President Andrea Luhtanen.

While that relationship is no doubt strong, it isn't preventing Target from wanting to look around.

The retailer's move to issue an RFI comes on the heels of its appointment of new CMO Jeff Jones just last month. He was most recently the president of indie ad shop McKinney. He succeeded Michael Francis, who left the company for JC Penney last year.

At the time, Ad Age reported that one of Mr. Jones' first orders of business would be ironing out the agency strategy. However, it's understood that he had not yet settled into the role when the company decided to issue the current RFI.

Just prior to Mr. Jones' arrival, the retailer parted ways with longtime lead shop Wieden & Kennedy and divided much of the work among MDC Partners' Mono, based in Minneapolis, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles.

Target has called on Accenture to help with various parts of its business over the years, but the consulting giant's use now as an agency search consultant is particularly interesting at a time when in some ways Accenture is beginning to look like an agency itself.

Contributing: Natalie Zmuda

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