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Wal-Mart Trims Pitch Field

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DALLAS Five shops have advanced in Wal-Mart's review of its creative, interactive and media duties, sources said.

In the pitch are: Omnicom Group's GSD&M in Austin, Texas; Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi in New York; WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather in New York; and Interpublic Group's Draft FCB Group in Chicago and The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., sources said.

Wal-Mart spends about $570 million annually in major measured media.

GSD&M and Kansas City, Mo.-based independent Bernstein-Rein are the creative incumbents. Bernstein-Rein did not make the cut.

Also out of contention are: WPP's JWT in New York; Publicis Groupe's Publicis in New York and Leo Burnett in Chicago; and MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners in New York, sources said.

Some agencies declined comment; others could not be reached or referred calls to the consultancy managing the review, Select Resources International in Santa Monica, Calif. SRI executives were not immediately available.

Client representatives offered no immediate comment on the review, which is scheduled to conclude in October.

Bernstein-Rein issued a statement that said it would end its 32-year partnership with the client on Jan. 31, 2007.

Robert Bernstein, agency CEO, said, "We're very proud of our long partnership and what it has accomplished, something unprecedented in business history—helping a small, regional chain become the world's largest retailer. And we're extremely proud of what we continue to do for Wal-Mart today, currently handling three of their biggest campaigns, including the new launches of pharmacy, organic foods and what promises to be an exceptional '06 holiday campaign."

He continued, "But as Bernstein-Rein parts company with our valued friends at Wal-Mart, we go forward with an unmatched understanding of what motivates consumer behavior along with invaluable experience in the many aspects of retailing today."

The remaining five agencies will be briefed by the client later this month on their next assignment.

Wal-Mart of late has given its print and television ads a more upscale look in an effort to move away from its price-oriented messages.

The client last month launched a campaign touting Wal-Mart's pharmacies that introduced "Go ahead. Script your life" as a theme line.

In February, Wal-Mart debuted an effort tagged "Look beyond the basics." The ads touted Metro 7, a clothing line targeting fashion-conscious urban women.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer is now reviewing several facets of its marketing operations. Apart from its flagship Wal-Mart brand, the most notable assignment up for grabs is the company's $15 million Sam's Club unit, handled by GSD&M.

—with Andrew McMains

This story updates an item posted earlier today with the statement from Bernstein-Rein.