Target’s arrival to shake up ad landscape?

Media Experts' Richards, Leo Burnett's Moore and retail expert Maureen Atkinson weigh in on the retailer's impact on the marketing landscape in Canada.

Thursday’s news that Target will arrive in Canada in 2013 and 2014 set the online world ablaze in chatter, with analysts speculating on the retail market impact and consumers salivating over the prospect of accessing the brand’s cheap n’ chic merchandise without the need for a passport.

US-based retailer Target Corp has agreed to buy the leases on 220 Zellers locations in Canada for C$1.83 billion, marking the retailer’s first international expansion. In a statement, Target said it plans to open 100 to 150 locations in Canada in 2013 and 2014.

The marketing world, however, had a different reason to pay attention, and not just because there’s the possibility of a major new account floating on the horizon. Target is a massive media buyer and advertiser in the US, and one of the country’s most innovative on a national scale. It’s recent ‘Black Friday’ campaign, for example, featuring a woman ‘training’ for the buying bonanza, quickly went viral, sparking a rash of copycats and chart-topping performance on Ad Age‘s viral video rankings.

Now that Canadians are set to experience much of the same, MiC reached out to industry pundits to find out their thoughts on the impact the retailer’s arrival in Canada will have once it finally lands here.

‘The arrival of Target will absolutely change the dynamics and the spend in the market,’ Lauren Richards, CEO, Media Experts, tells MiC. ‘They are a formidable competitor with great branding and style and will really change our mass-merchandise landscape. They will need to invest to establish themselves and their Canadian competitors will not take their entry lightly.’

‘They are going to have such strength in deployment,’ she continues. ‘It will be challenging for our current retailers and across many categories given the depth and breadth of the Target offering.’

David Moore, outgoing president of Leo Burnett Canada, says the end of Zellers as we know it is a ‘a little sad, but it’s not surprising,’ citing Leo Burnett’s previous AOR relationship with Zellers and its status as a ‘proud Canadian brand.’

‘It’s going to be pretty exciting for consumers…and I think consumers are really going to embrace the brand.’

Recalling Target’s headline-generating holiday stunt in 2002 in which the retailer parked a barge alongside Manhattan as a floating pop-up store, Moore said that kind of marketing attitude is what has helped the brand become one of the only mass retailers to go toe-to-toe with Walmart in the marketplace.

‘[The barge stunt] says so much about the brand and its sensibilities,’ he says. ‘Being in Manhattan, in the fashion district, is something that other mass merchants wouldn’t even consider because it’s impractical. But that’s what Target is known for and if they bring that sensibility to Canada, I think they’re really going to shake things up in a good way for the marketing and advertising community.’

Retailers poised to feel the crunch from the arrival of Target here – both on the balance sheets and in the creative marketing and media realm – include H&M, Loblaw’s Joe Fresh brand and even general merchandisers like Canadian Tire, Maureen Atkinson, senior partner, JC Williams Group, tells MiC.

When asked what kind of impact the retailer’s arrival will have on the marketing landscape here, Atkinson says competing retailers should expect, ahem, a red-carpet debut.

‘They do invest in some very creative ways of promoting their business so I think that will be something that we can expect to see, and probably other retailers are going to try and emulate,’ she says. ‘Certainly I think online; Target is very strong online, and very good with digital promotion, and they also do great event promoting, so I think we’ll see some additional action in that area.’

‘I don’t think that Target is going to enter quietly,’ she continues. ‘Part of the reason they got so many locations is so that they can come in with a bang, so I think we can expect a bang.’