Walmart in talks with agencies for new marketing push

The retail giant's CMO stepped down at the end of August.

Walmart is in talks with a number of creative agencies outside of its current incumbent, Publicis, to take on a special assignment, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Industry insiders have told Campaign US that shops have spent recent weeks preparing ideas for a marketing initiative anchored in the theme of unifying America.

A number of holding companies are aware of the brief but only one has been invited by the brand. 

Sources speculate that this project is a nod to Walmart's desire to shake up its marketing strategy and experiment outside of traditional advertising.

People with knowledge of the matter also say this project could pave the way for a closer relationship with Walmart once the new CMO is on board, with many predicting a major creative review in the near future -- a move seen all too often when a new marketing chief takes the helm at an organization.

News of Walmart courting other agencies follows the resignation of Chief Marketing Officer Barbara Messing on August 30. She was with the retail giant for around a year. Now, its marketing division is undergoing a restructuring. Michael Francis, former Target CMO, continues to consult with Walmart and is currently leading a team within the marketing department. Janey Whitside, Walmart's executive vice president and first chief customer officer, is leading the marketing organization.

A value of the Walmart account based on media spend is $820 million globally, according to COMvergence. 

While Walmart did not elaborate on the special assignment, it stressed that Publicis remains its agency of record.

A spokesperson told Campaign US: "Across Walmart, we work with a number of agencies to provide support for our broad range of projects from time to time. It helps us gain valuable expertise in specific areas allowing us to create engaging campaigns that reach varying target audiences dependent upon the business or campaign.

"We are pleased with the work being done by Publicis through Department W. They remain our agency of record in the advertising space and there are no plans for change."

Publicis declined to comment. 

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