Zenith Poised to Win Kohl's Media Business

Publicis Groupe Shop Lands $350 Million Account

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Publicis Groupe's Zenith is set to land Kohl's media account, worth over $300 million in billings, Ad Age has learned. The move follows a review that began in the fall, Ad Age has learned.

"We have engaged Zenith Media Services, Inc. for Kohl's media buying and planning responsibilities," said a spokeswoman in a statement. "We believe that they will help us deliver on our marketing strategy to raise our share of voice and reach a broader audience."

Santa Monica, Calif.-based consultancy Select Resource International supported the review. Interpublic Group of Cos.' UM is the incumbent on the media business. Other agencies that made it to the late stages of the review included a team from Interpublic's Mediabrands, independent Horizon and WPP's MEC. Agencies either declined to comment or couldn't be reached by press time.

In 2012, the retailer spent $356.5 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media. That's a slight bump up from the $332.8 it spent in the U.S. in 2011. According to Ad Age's DataCenter, Kohl's is the 29th-largest advertiser in the U.S., having spent $1.12 billion on total marketing in the U.S. The company had increased its total spending in 2011 by 10.4%, up from $1.02 billion in 2010.

Going forward, the company, which doesn't currently have a chief marketing officer, plans to shift its spending and significantly increase TV and digital investment, while focusing on targeting moms, particularly in the 35- to 54-year-old age group.

Kohl's CEO Kevin Mansell said on a recent earnings call, "The biggest single learning was we needed to raise our share of voice in broadcast, because we need to reach more customers outside of our core customer, particularly our credit card customer." He added, "And the message is going to be broader, so not so targeted to individual items or categories ... but a broader message of savings and value across the store."

Julie Gardner, the brand's longtime chief marketing officer and a 13-year veteran of the company, quietly departed late last year around the start of the media agency review.

Sibling agency McCann currently handles creative for Kohl's, but over the past year the company has been reaching out to agencies such as DeVito Verdi in New York for additional creative. Early last year, Kohl's sought a new agency for strategy work.

Contributing: Natalie Zmuda

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