Kohl’s in Talks With Agencies

Retailer Denies That Broadcast Account at JWT Is in Review
DETROIT–Kohl’s Department Stores is talking to agencies about its $90 million advertising account, but a marketing executive with the retailer declined to characterize the process as a formal review.
J. Walter Thompson here has been Kohl’s agency of record for broadcast since March 1996. Kohl’s handles print creative and media buying in-house.
The retailer initially contacted a half-dozen agencies in March and asked them to make capabilities presentations at its Menomonee Falls, Wis., headquarters, according to sources.
Shops from among that group were given creative assignments. “They’re not going to get rid of JWT unless they think there’s something better out there,” a source said. “Now it’s a question if the agencies can come back with creative that they like better than what they’re doing right now.”
Julie Gardner, Kohl’s senior vice president of marketing, came to the retailer last fall from Eckerd Drugs. Gardner said it is a “normal process” for Kohl’s to periodically look at suppliers. “There’s no review; there’s no conversations with agencies about switching from J. Walter,” she said.
Gardner said, when asked if she had been talking to other agencies or had asked them to submit work or capabilities, “My philosophy on that is I should be doing that on a regular basis, not even just annually,” she said. “It’s not like we do an annual review process and we do RFPs and have different presentations; it’s not a formal process like that. It’s more keeping in contact with people and understanding what different options there are.”
Steve Brown, executive vice president and general manager of J. Walter Thompson Detroit, said he was not aware of a review. “We have not been told anything of that nature,” he said. “We’ve gone through some hiccups with them, some good and some bad, but there’s never been a threat of losing the business, per se.”
Brown said he wouldn’t be surprised if Kohl’s marketing executives had invited agencies for discussions, as that would fit with how the company has traditionally done business.
The agency recently developed a more contemporary jingle for the “That’s more like it” tagline and is working on a back-to-school campaign.
Kohl’s opened 46 stores last year and will add another 60 this year. As of April, it was operating 297 stores in 25 states. K