Former Target CMO Francis Joins C-Suite at DreamWorks

Michael Francis, who spent more than two decades at Target Corporation before leaving last year and then serving brief stints at J.C. Penney and Gap, has become DreamWorks Animation’s first-ever chief global brand officer.

Former Target Corporation executive Michael Francis has landed yet another new job—his third since leaving the Minneapolis-based retailer in October 2011.
 
Glendale, California-based DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., said Monday that it has hired Francis as its first chief global brand officer. In that role, he’ll be responsible for the company’s worldwide branding initiatives, as well as its licensing and consumer products efforts and franchise management activities.
 
Francis will begin working at DreamWorks immediately on a part-time basis, and he’ll assume his new position full time in February.
 
DreamWorks’ portfolio includes the blockbuster franchise properties of Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, and Puss in Boots—along with DreamWorks Classics titles Casper the Friendly Ghost, Where’s Waldo?, Lassie, George of the Jungle, and various Christmas classics.
 
According to the Los Angeles Times, Francis will plan an important role in helping DreamWorks find new ways to build its branded characters around the world and across multiple outlets, including television, video games, books, and theme parks.
 
DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg described Francis as “one of the most valuable and strategic hires that we’ve made at DreamWorks, maybe ever,” and said the decision to add him to the company’s leadership was “one of those duh moments, The Wall Street Journal reported.
 
Francis joins DreamWorks at a time when it’s reportedly set to make major consumer-products pushes on established animated franchises and releases that are planned for 2013. DreamWorks is also investing in overseas expansion—particularly in China, where it’s building a $350 million animation studio—and considering starting its own television channels.
 
“I am tremendously excited to join the DreamWorks Animation team. This is an incredibly powerful global family brand with enviable brand equity and significant untapped potential,” Francis said in a statement. “DreamWorks Animation has a number of exciting opportunities for future growth and I look forward to working with Jeffrey, [Chief Operating Officer] Ann [Daly], and the entire team to take on this new role of elevating their iconic branded entertainment properties to even greater heights around the world.”
 
Francis is best known in the Twin Cities as the former chief marketing officer (CMO) for Minneapolis-based Target—a company with which he has a long history.
 
After becoming an executive trainee with the Marshall Field’s store in Chicago in 1986, Francis joined Target predecessor Dayton-Hudson Corporation in 1990 when it acquired Marshall Field’s. He held a variety of senior marketing positions in the department store division of Dayton’s and was promoted to executive vice president of Target in 2001 and to CMO in August 2008.

Toward the end of Francis’ tenure at Target, he was overseeing the company’s expansion to Canada. He also oversaw some of Target’s best-known ad campaigns and the marketing of designer partnerships with Michael Graves, Liberty of London, and Missoni—and he overhauled Target’s ad agency roster and media approach.
 
Francis jumped ship in October of last year and headed to Plano, Texas-based J.C. Penney to serve as its president—and in April, Target hired advertising agency executive Jeffrey Jones II as Francis’ successor. But Francis’ stint at J.C. Penney was quite brief: In June, J.C. Penney said that he was leaving, effective immediately, and offered no further details. Three months later, in September, Francis joined San Francisco-based Gap, Inc., in an advisory role.
 
DreamWorks has theatrically released 25 animated feature films, all of which are produced in 3-D. Theatrical releases scheduled for 2013 are The Croods on March 22, Turbo on July 19, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman on November 1.
 
DreamWorks Animation’s 2011 revenue totaled $706 million, down 10 percent from the prior year. In the third quarter that ended in September, DreamWorks’ profits jumped 24 percent to $24.4 million, or 29 cents per share, on revenues of $186.3 million—results that were fueled largely by the box-office success of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.