Wal-Mart to Revisit Review

CHICAGO Just weeks after hiring DraftFCB in one of the year’s most closely watched reviews, Wal-Mart is splitting with the Interpublic Group agency and plans to put its $570 million ad account back in play “based on new information that has come to light in the past two weeks,” said client representative Mona Williams.

Wal-Mart has not decided if the new competition would be open to all comers or just finalists from the first review, Williams said. The process will be completed by the end of January.

The move comes two days after the abrupt departures of Wal-Mart executives Julie Roehm, svp, marketing communications, and Sean Womack, vp, communications architecture [Adweek Online, Dec. 5].

Williams would not say if those departures and the decision to part with DraftFCB were linked, but she said the agency was ineligible to re-pitch the account.

A DraftFCB representative said, “We’re very disappointed,” but declined to elaborate.

Roehm had been a key decision maker in the review, in which DraftFCB and Aegis Group’s Carat unseated incumbents GSD&M, an Omnicom Group shop in Austin, Texas, and Bernstein-Rein, an independent agency in Kansas City, Mo.

In the review that finished in October, DraftFCB won creative duties, while Carat picked up media chores.

Carat is eligible to re-pitch, Williams said. Reached late Thursday, Ray Warren, president, Carat, confirmed the agency would re-pitch Wal-Mart media. “We will be using flame throwers, bells and whistles and all the artillery in our arsenal,” Warren said.

DraftFCB and Carat teamed to win the first competition. WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather, IPG’s The Martin Agency and GSD&M led the other contending agency teams in the late stages of that review.

“I have no knowledge of the facts leading up to this, but it has nothing to do with SRI or the review process,” said Catherine Bension, CEO of Select Resources International, which guided the first Wal-Mart review. “We are continuing to work with the company, but our role has not yet been defined with regard to the review announced today.”

Roehm, in a brief statement Monday, pointed to the earlier competition as her key achievement at Wal-Mart. “One of my first orders of business was to help spearhead a comprehensive agency review. Now that I have established the marketing communications organization and completed the agency review, it’s time to tackle my next challenge,” she said.

Previously, Roehm was director of marketing communications at Chrysler, where she built a campaign around its Hemi engine. She joined Wal-Mart in February, reporting to client evp, CMO John Fleming.

Wal-Mart spent $325 million in measured media through September of this year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

IPG CEO Michael Roth issued a memo Thursday on the Wal-Mart situation to all holding company agencies. He said, in part, “Today Wal-Mart informed us that they are re-opening the review process for their marketing business. DraftFCB will not be participating. However disappointing this news is, it should not become a distraction for us as we focus on our turnaround, which is taking hold on so many fronts. Please contact me if you have any questions.”