Wal-Mart Expected To Name Draft, Carat, R/GA, Shake-Up Media Strategy

Wal-Mart reportedly has decided to move its massive advertising account to a "dream team" comprised of Draft FCB as its core brand agency and Carat as its media strategy, planning and buying shop. Wal-Mart declined to comment on consumer and trade reports and said a final decision has yet to be made, but Draft FCB parent Interpublic's stock rallied Wednesday on the news, which would come as powerful vindication for the new hybrid direct/brand agency structure. The decision, should it be finalized, would also be a strong vote of confidence for Carat, which has had a rocky new business run lately, and now must defend a review of one of its biggest clients, Phillips.

The news would also be a blow for Omnicom's whose GSD&M unit has been Wal-Mart's long-time ad agency, along with independent Bernstein-Rein, but the world's largest retailer appears to be set on altering its marketing, advertising and media strategy.

Interestingly, Wal-Mart, as big as it is in retailing, is not a huge advertiser, and a very small one nationally. Most of the estimated $570 million it spends on media is spent locally and is promotionally based to drive traffic to its stores. The selection of Draft FCB and Carat suggests a decision to shake things up and move in new directions. In fact, Interpublic's R/GA unit, which is known for breakthrough creative media strategies, is expected to take the lead on Wal-Mart's interactive advertising and media efforts, though that also has not been confirmed.

Another intriguing element of the Draft FCB and Carat alliance is the role of Bill Cella, the chairman of Interpublic's Magna Global media negotiating unit, who recently was named a vice chairman of Draft FCB and who will likely play a key role with the Carat team.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart has unveiled plans to alter its advertising theme to a "Be Bright" effort beginning Nov. 1, in time for the holiday shopping season. The effort aims to reposition the retailer as a destination for premium electronics and fashion offerings in addition to low-cost household items. It's unclear whether the campaign was developed by one of Wal-Mart's outgoing shops, GSD&M, which was a finalist in the review, or Bernstein-Rein Advertising.

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