Walmart Wraps PR Review by Adding Three Shops to Roster

Golin Harris, Cohn & Wolfe, Porter Novelli Will Bid for Assignments

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- After a lengthy agency review for its multimillion-dollar consumer-PR business, Walmart has selected Interpublic Group of Cos.' Golin Harris, WPP's Cohn & Wolfe and Omnicom Group's Porter Novelli, according to industry sources. The three agencies will bid against one another for individual assignments in the retail giant's effort to drive greater cost efficiencies.

Five categories
The agencies will vie for business in five categories: food/grocery and health/nutrition; apparel and home (softlines and furniture); hardlines (such as lawn and garden, hardware, automotive), entertainment (including electronics, movies, music, toys, sports) and seasonal events; financial services; and online, via

In its request for proposals Walmart said it was looking to bring together "power category marketing and PR" and compile an agency roster packed with established category and channel specialists.

In the consumer sector Cohn & Wolfe's specialties are in the food, nutrition, apparel and consumer electronics spaces, while Golin Harris, which has managed the majority of the PR for the Nintendo Wii, specializes in the youth and women segments. Porter Novelli's focus is on brand-building, identifying influencers in specific categories, entertainment and lifestyle marketing, and product launches.

Big win for Porter Novelli
The win is especially big for Porter Novelli, whose chairman, Helen Ostrowski, stepped down at the beginning of the year. The agency has been relatively quiet on the new-business front and in 2008 there were numerous reports of layoffs in addition to the loss of two significant accounts, Humana and the American Cancer Society, both of which it chose not to defend and were rumored to be seven-figure contracts.

The agencies did not return calls or declined to comment. A spokesperson for Walmart said it had no comment. Select Resources International handled the review. Independent shop Edelman, which took part in the pitch, has handled public affairs and environmental work for Walmart for more than three years and will continue to do so.

While Walmart has managed to flourish during the recession its U.S. division has seen a rapid deceleration of store expansion and sales contribution from new stores drop last quarter to a record low contributing only 0.2 points of its 3.8% U.S. sales growth. Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn recently told Ad Age those factors were forcing it to become a better marketer and merchandiser.

Interpublic's Martin Agency is Walmart's lead creative shop, and Publicis Groupe's Mediavest handles media duties for the retailer. In March Walmart tapped Interpublic digital shop R/GA to expand its digital presence, and a month earlier it brought Publicis & Hal Riney on board to manage work on its Great Value brand.

Most Popular