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It was amid great surprise that reported giant retailer Target’s split with lead agency Wieden + Kennedy this week. Clients changing or terminating agency relationships is by no means unusual, especially in the face of ever increasing pressure to justify ad spending. But, what is unusual is for it to be done when all outward indications point to a highly successful partnership. In fact, Target named Wieden + Kennedy it’s lead agency in 2009 without a review. A display of confidence that was not misplaced according to Jim Edwards’ article for who wrote “Since 2009, when Wieden became Target’s lead shop, Target has added at least $4 billion in annual sales.” and their “Santa has Elves. You have Target” campaign, was ranked one of the season’s most effective spots by AceMetrix.

Comments on both sides were relatively neutral, revealing little of the rationale for the split which follows just a few short months after the departure of former CMO, Michael Francis. According to Ad Age, Target spokeswoman, Katie Boylan effectively demurred when asked for specifics, simply stating “It’s safe to say there’s not a single factor we would point to,…” Wieden executives’ comments were minimal as well, declining to comment further than stating that they were proud of the work they had done and wished Target the best.
Some speculate that friction between Wieden and Target VP-Creative Liz Ellert, who has been taking the lead in the absence of a new CMO, is a contributing factor to the split. It may also be a sort of “changing of the guard” given former CMO, Michael Francis’ close relationship with Wieden .

Then there is the question of what this may mean for their Minneapolis office that was opened to support Target’s business. As reported by the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal the agency is “ …evaluating the future of its three-person Minneapolis office now that Target Corp. has cut ties with the ad agency.” It remains to be seen whether or not Target will choose another lead agency, and if so which ones will be on the short list given Ad Age DataCenter’s figures of Target’s more than $1.5 billion dollars annual ad spending, I’m sure there will be no shortage of candidates.