The Martin Agency Loses Walmart to Publicis Groupe

By Patrick Coffee Comment

Walmart ended its relationship with The Martin Agency today after nearly a decade. CEO Matt Williams announced the loss in all all-staff meeting this morning.

A Martin Agency spokesperson writes, “As of September, we will no longer be working with Walmart on their advertising. We’ve worked with them since 2007 and are very proud of the work we’ve done together and wish them the best.”

According to a press release that went out earlier today, Publicis Groupe has created a new, as-yet-unnamed but not “exclusive” entity to handle all of the monster retail chain’s creative and in-store advertising. The new unit will be led by Publicis Communications CEO Arthur Sadoun, who is widely seen as the favorite to succeed Maurice Levy.

For now, the agreement will only concern U.S.-based work. But Walmart will also have access to “resources outside of marketing, including capabilities to support corporate reputation and technology that builds relationships with customers.” IPG told us in a statement that “Walmart remains a valued IPG client,” adding, “We’re proud to continue supporting Walmart on a variety of projects.” (IPG’s Golin currently serves as Walmart’s PR agency of record. )

Levy, from the press release: “This relationship is the direct result of Publicis’ new approach, ‘the Power of One,’ which is designed to deliver end-to end solutions for our clients. Walmart is already implementing innovative approaches to reach its customers. Our goal is to leverage all of Publicis’ assets – not just the resources of one agency – to help them in these efforts.”

The Martin Agency first won the Walmart business in January 2007 as part of a review that also saw the media portion of the account go to Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest.

Levy’s statement aside, it seems that Saatchi & Saatchi will now inherit a large portion of Walmart’s creative work. The Publicis agency became a Walmart roster shop after winning a review in late 2013 and launched its first campaign in February 2014 as part of an Olympics tie-in.

That news came only months after Andy Murray, founder and former CEO of shopper marketing division Saatchi & Saatchi X, joined the Arkansas-based company as SVP of creative. He currently retains that title. Walmart initially brought on Saatchi & Saatchi X in 2006 to handle in-store and shopper marketing, with the agency eventually becoming something resembling a dedicated shop.

There was no review in this case, and the decision did not concern Walmart’s media account, which went to WPP’s GroupM in March after the arrival of CMO Tony Rodgers (who had run the company’s business in China). MediaVest subsequently laid off more than 80 employees in a move that representatives strongly implied was not related to the Walmart loss.

Representatives for Walmart referred us to the press release, and Publicis Groupe has not yet responded to requests for comment.

The chain spent nearly a billion dollars on measured media last year according to Kantar Media.

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