Walmart 'In Conversations' With Haworth for Massive Media Account

Moves Comes as Target Transitions to GroupM

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Walmart is in talks with WPP Group's Haworth Media & Marketing regarding taking over its media account, but those discussions 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."

Michael Francis
Michael Francis

The discussions come as Target Corp. moves its media and planning business from Hayworth 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, where its relationship dates back to 1970 as a founding client.

Longtime Target chief marketer Michael Francis came on board as a marketing consultant at Walmart Jan. 1. Within six weeks of that, the retailer had parted ways with Mediavest. Speculation about that move began a month earlier, even before Walmart U.S. CMO Stephen Quinn departed Jan. 31, succeeded by longtime fellow Walmart marketer Tony Rogers.

Mr. Francis had worked with Haworth for many years at Target, then more recently with Dreamworks Animation, where he was CMO for nearly three years before he announced his plans to step down from that post in August. So he has worked with the Minneapolis media shop for much of his professional career, outside a brief eight-month stint as president of JCPenney in 2011 and 2012.

Should Walmart move to Haworth, it would put the account under an agency minority owned by WPP Group. The holding company in 2014 took a 49% stake in Haworth. Walmart said that Mediavest will continue to handle the account through the end of its fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2017.

Walmart is ranked No. 13 on Ad Age's list of the top media spenders. The retail giant, including its Sam's Club brand, spent over $900 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.

Walmart in January 2007 awarded its media account to MediaVest and its creative account to Interpublic Group's Martin Agency. That came after a series events leading Walmart in May 2006 to put its accounts in review. In November 2006, it selected Interpublic's DraftFCB for creative and Aegis' Carat for media. But just a month later, it terminated Julie Roehm, senior VP-marketing communications and point person on the review, and put the accounts back up for grabs.

The Walmart shift comes on the heels of an unprecedented number of reviews and agency changes by big marketers in 2015, including Coca-Cola, L'Oreal, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, General Mills, Volkswagen and Sony, among others.

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