Battle Of The Giant Retailer Reviews

With a $570 million media spend, Wal-Mart is the biggest account review of the year so far—more than twice the size of $250 million competitor Safeway, which put its business up for grabs earlier this month. But that doesn’t mean the former is likely to attract more interest than the latter.

For one, agency executives say Wal-Mart’s plethora of goods—the Bentonville, Ark., retailer sells everything from groceries to clothes, electronics and furniture—makes it a giant category-buster that would prevent the winner from pursuing accounts in numerous other categories.

Creative issues factor in as well. A creative chief at a global agency network planning to pursue Safeway said the supermarket category is a “ripe” opportunity, because no one company has broken through with great brand advertising. Also, the Safeway RFP notes the Pleasanton, Calif.-based client’s interest in doing “work that gets talked about,” another source said. Historically, Wal-Mart’s ads have focused on low prices and other retail-minded concerns.

However, one factor that could give agencies pause about Safeway is the workload. Sources said the incumbent, IPG’s Dailey & Associates in West Hollywood, Calif., produces between 35 to 50 radio spots for the client every week, so the winning agency would need a sizeable in-house production facility to handle it or watch revenue (estimated at $11 million) flow to outside vendors.

Still, at least one chief marketing officer at a New York agency said his shop welcomes the challenge. “Last year, we did 17,000 print ads for one of our clients,” the CMO said. “We have a whole operation set up to do a fast-turnaround, multigeography retail account really well, really fast and with zero errors. Why wouldn’t we want to use this machine for more clients?”