How MDC Partners won Target Canada

MDC Partners will lead Target Canada's overall marketing efforts. Here's how the retailer is tackling its foray into Canada and how MDC won this coveted account.

Target Corp. announced this afternoon that it has hired MDC Partners to take on development of its overall marketing efforts in Canada.

MDC will lead the retailer’s Canadian marketing with an integrated team of Canadian agencies. Integral to the team are KBS+P Canada and Veritas Communications. There will also be support from Northstar Research Partners and BOOM! Marketing. In addition, Aegis Group-owned Carat in Toronto will handle media buying duties.

Mario Daigle, KBS+P Canada president, said his agency entered the selection process around the end of February and did roughly five presentations. Four groups were in the running for the Target Canada business at the beginning of the process, and only two were left by the end. Daigle and his team were notified of their win on Thursday.

“What was very important for [Target Canada] was to work with an agency that really gets their brand and understands their DNA and the retail market, and that’s what we demonstrated throughout the process,” Daigle told Marketing.

He said the scope of the work is being decided on now, so it’s too early to share details on how teams will split the work or be staffed. But he said “the first assignments are going to start fast… within weeks.”

Minneapolis-based Target plans to open its first Canadian stores in 2012 and Daigle said the company is very sensitive to the Canadian environment and the specifics of this market. “That’s refreshing,” he said. “They’re not coming into this country saying ‘We know it all.’ They want to do it right… I think they’re really looking for a group of partners with expertise in the Canadian market and they’re willing to listen. I think it will be a great group effort… It’s going to be quite fun.”

While Fresh Intelligence wasn’t one of the agencies included in the formal announcement made by Target Monday afternoon, Corinne Sandler, founder of the brand consultancy told Marketing that Target approached her firm to participate in an RFP towards the end of May.

Sandler said the agency had only about a week to submit a proposal. Fresh Intelligence was awarded the business three weeks later, she said.

“We were awarded the business based on a large amount of retail experience, particularly loyalty programs and understanding the Canadian consumer,” said Sandler, whose agency has completed projects for Sun Life Financial, Sears Canada, the Bay, SC Johnson and Danone.

Though Sandler couldn’t provide specifics, she did say Fresh Intelligence would be conducting qualitative and quantitative research, focus groups and discussions with Canadian consumers for a specific project that already exists in the U.S., but needs tailoring for the Canadian market.

Sandler said Target’s entrance north of the border would change the competitiveness within the Canadian retail landscape. Target has the potential to become a one-stop shop, making it a contender not only for apparel retailers but for grocery stores as well.

In January the U.S. retailer said it would spend $1.83 billion to take over the leases for the majority of Zellers stores from its owner, the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The chain, which helped coin the phrase “discount chic,” originally planned to open more than 200 Target stores in Canada, but on Friday announced that Walmart would take on 39 of those sites.

Locations that Target does not convert to its banner will be leased back to Zellers or potentially other retailers.

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