Minneapolis-based Haworth Marketing + Media is losing a big retail account—Target Corp., which confirmed today that it is placing its $500 million-plus media assignment with GroupM. But Haworth may end up with a bigger account in the retail sector—Walmart.
Walmart, which spends about $900 million on ads annually, confirmed in February that it would be parting ways with its long-time media agency Mediavest, part of Publicis Groupe, after a lengthy transition period that wraps up in January 2017.
But the big box giant confirmed today that it was talking to Haworth about possibly taking on the company’s media agency assignment. That’s unusual—marketers rarely comment while discussions are taking place about a new agency relationship.
The Bentonville, AK-based retailer didn’t have a lot to say about the ongoing discussions but did issue this statement: “We have had conversations with Haworth Marketing and Media. They are a great agency with unique capabilities that could be an interesting partner in the future.”
The company declined to say what, if any, additional agencies it was currently talking to about handling its media duties post the Mediavest era.
If Haworth does end up with the account, it would also be a huge win for WPP’s GroupM, which is not only taking over the Target account, but also bought a 49% stake in Haworth in 2014. In effect nearly half of the Walmart media business would belong to GroupM if Haworth were to win the business.
Haworth CEO Gary Tobey didn’t seem particularly upset when commenting today on the loss of the Target account. In fact, he seemed to suggest that the parting of ways was as much his idea as it was Target’s. “We’ve worked with Target for decades and are proud of the incredible things we accomplished together,” stated Tobey. “ I felt it was time to take Haworth in a different direction. As we seek to evolve our agency and explore new opportunities, we wish the Target and GroupM teams the best as they move forward.”
Walmart, of course would certainly be a major new opportunity, and one that Haworth could tackle with the full resources of GroupM behind it. As the two companies stated when GroupM bought its stake in Haworth, the latter would be backed by the holding company and its massive arsenal of “tools and data, thus linking the art of consumer connections with the most advanced marketplace analytics.”
Target declined to comment on the possibility that Haworth could end up representing a key competitor in the big box retail space. But given the relationship between Haworth and GroupM, and today’s statements by both Target and Walmart, it would appear that neither client is bothered by any potential conflict of interest issue concerning the closely aligned agencies.