Target to reconsider no-blogs communications policy after billboard flap

Target spokesperson Amy VonWalter admits that her company has been traditionally conservative when it comes to dealing with the media, and its policy of not talking to trade publications and bloggers stems from that. But after this week's flap over a billboard deemed sexually suggestive by a mom and blogger, she says the company is looking at revising the policy.

Amy Jussel, who blogs about marketing that targets kids, spotted an image of a Target billboard showing a young woman, legs splayed in a V with her crotch smack dab in the middle of Target's logo. She includes the Times Square billboard, also on the exterior of the company's Minneapolis headquarters, in a broader category of what she calls "sexualized advertising slop." The billboard has been debated locally at the Parents for Ethical Marketing blog, at MNspeak and on a segment (and blog post) by WCCO-TV last night.

But less discussed is the retailer's policy of not communicating with what, in an email to Jussel, a Target rep called "non-traditional media outlets" -- blogs and trade publications.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, VonWalter told me that workload has something to do with the decision, but there's a bigger factor. "We want to focus on our communications with our customer base and our guests, not on the industry as a whole… That just expanded into blogs."

But she acknowledges that, with the decline in the newspaper industry and more people getting information from online sources, the policy needs an overhaul. "In today's media world, we recognize it's worth revisiting."

Further, "we understand that the public is looking for more transparency, both from government and from corporations."

She couldn't determine what criteria -- site traffic, content, mission of a site -- might guide heightened transparency among online entities. "Is it certain blogs? Is it influencer blogs?" she pondered.

Target hasn't issued a statement about the Times Square billboard, and VonWalter says they've received fewer than a dozen complaints.

"This is a winter marketing campaign," she added, and it featured a series of posters showing winter activities -- skiing, skating and, in this ad, making a snow angel -- atop the bullseye logo. "It's totally innocent."

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