Wal-Mart Hopefuls Adjust Strategies

DALLAS Last week’s cut to five in the $570 million Wal-Mart review was welcome news for the advancing creative shops, though some have been forced to tweak a major part of their strategy going forward.

Sources said that two Interpublic Group shops, Draft FCB Group and The Martin Agency, were asked last week to clarify their media partners for the pitch. Both had been pitching without a designated media shop, unlike the other agencies in contention. Instead, both proposed that parent company IPG would establish a “specialty shop” with executives from various IPG media agencies for the retailer (IPG’s major media shops, Initiative and Universal McCann, are conflicted). Bill Cella, CEO of IPG’s Magna Global USA, who has previously worked with Wal-Mart CMO Julie Roehm, would have compiled that team.

But despite what sources characterized as Roehm’s respect for Cella, she is said to have been uncomfortable with a cobbled-together, untested media resource. So the suggestion was made last week that the shops find themselves established media firms, sources said.

Enter Aegis’ Carat, which had originally pitched Wal-Mart alongside IPG’s Campbell-Ewald, which was eliminated in an early round. Roehm, said sources, liked what she had heard from the media shop, which was eager to get back in the game. Sources said Roehm suggested Draft join forces with Carat, and the two obliged.

Martin, meanwhile, will be offering its in-house media team, Ingenuity Media Shop, but for the purposes of this pitch will rebrand it Martin Media, according to sources.

Roehm did not return calls; consultancy Select Resources International declined comment.

Incumbent GSD&M is pitching its own media services to the client it has served since 1987, but the Austin, Texas, shop is now expected to use other Omnicom agencies as resources as well. Among the agencies expected to assist GSD&M is St. Louis-based Rodgers/Townsend, a former independent that was acquired by Omnicom last week. GSD&M and Rodgers/Townsend share the AT&T account, which is among the largest for the Austin agency.

Media partnerships for the other contenders include Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi with Mediavest and Ogilvy & Mather with Mediaedge:cia. Interactive duties are also part of the account.

The five agencies will be briefed in late August, with final pitches expected in early October, sources said. The agencies and client declined comment or could not be reached.

Wal-Mart on Monday named Saatchi & Saatchi X in Sprindale, Ark., to handle its in-store, shopper and associate marketing chores. The budget for that assignment was not disclosed.

The review for Wal-Mart’s main account, guided by SRI of Santa Monica, Calif., is the first for the client in 32 years, when Bernstein-Rein won the business. GSD&M joined the account later without a review.

Bernstein-Rein, which introduced Wal-Mart’s smiley faces when founder Sam Walton was minding the stores, will continue working for the world’s largest retailer through Jan. 31, 2007, the shop said.

Other agencies eliminated in last week’s cut were WPP Group’s JWT in New York, MDC Partners’ Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners in New York and two Publicis Groupe agencies, Leo Burnett in Chicago and Publicis in New York.

Separately, Wal-Mart is conducting a search for a new Hispanic agency and its Sam’s Club unit is also holding an account review.

While Wal-Mart has continued to grow, the retailer has sought to improve its image from a cinder-block discounter to something more fashionable. While rival Target’s sales are a fraction of Wal-Mart’s, Target advertising and positioning are considered more appealing to younger, more image-conscious consumers. In seeking to introduce Wal-Mart to more trendy consumers, GSD&M last year ran a series of ads in Vogue showing mix-and-match fashion ideas featuring real customers as models.

This story updates an earlier item with news of Saatchi & Saatchi X adding Wal-Mart’s in-store assignment.