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EBAY CMO BAILS; RETURNS TO WAL-MART

Carter Cast's Auction Days Lasted Only Two Months

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Two months after he began his new job as eBay's chief marketing officer, Carter Cast has bailed out to return to Walmart.com.

Mr. Cast has been named president, but not CEO, of Walmart.com, effective July 5.

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Mr. Cast’s appointment fills a vacancy created when the online unit’s former president and CEO was named executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Wal-Mart Stores. John Fleming began his new position May 2, but continued to oversee the online unit and will retain control, with Mr. Cast reporting to Mr. Fleming.

No CEO for online unit
Wal-Mart will not hire a CEO for the online unit, which has been a bright spot amid disappointing same-store sales growth for the company overall, a spokesman said. Despite his stint at eBay, Mr. Cast’s loyalty appears to be with Wal-Mart.com, which he joined in 2000 as vice president of marketing. He was promoted in 2002 to senior vice president of merchandising and marketing. Mr. Cast oversaw the launch of the site's music downloads service and apparel business, and managed the company's continued expansion of categories such as home furniture and electronics.

Mr. Cast will retain oversight of all day-to-day operations at Walmart.com, and will focus on further expanding the site's merchandise assortment and product information, as well as developing services that integrate into Wal-Mart Stores, according to a press release.

EBay plans to replace Mr. Cast; in the meantime, on June 17 the company named William Cobb, president of North American and eBay’s former senior vice president of global marketing, its acting CMO, said Hani Durzy, a spokesman for the company. Mr. Cast reported to Mr. Cobb during his tenure. Before joining eBay in 2000, Mr. Cobb held positions as senior vice president of international for Yum Brands and chief marketing officer of Pizza Hut.

Noncompete clause
Mr. Durzy refused to comment as to whether Mr. Cast’s defection back to Walmart.com might trigger a noncompete clause in his employment contract. But he did add that although eBay considers Wal-Mart.com a competitor, “Walmart.com is a completely different model.”

Before Mr. Cast’s appointment at eBay, Mr. Cobb awarded its more than $70 million advertising account to Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide a day after it fired Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. BBDO has yet to break a national ad campaign for eBay, which has run only two national campaigns, a musical extravaganza-themed effort "Do It eBay" and last year's more sentimental "The Power of All of Us."

EBay spent $455 million on global online and offline marketing programs in 2004, with about $250 million spent in U.S marketing initiatives. According to TNS Media Intelligence, eBay's measured media spending in the U.S. peaked at $84.6 million in 2003 and in 2004 dropped to $73.8 million.

Focus shifting overseas
The auction site’s marketing focus is shifting oversees to countries such as France, the U.K., Italy, Korea and Taiwan, the fastest-growing markets for the auction sites, said David Edwards, an analyst at the San Francisco office of American Technology Research, an independent research firm.

“The challenge eBay has now is that their two largest markets, the U.S. and Germany, have slowed down in terms of growth and are now growing at a 10% to 15% rate,” Mr. Edwards said. “It’s tough to say whether an advertising campaign will work to bring more buyers in these markets.”

Cooperation between the marketers?
Additionally, Mr. Edwards said, in the U.S. eBay is increasingly facing competition from retail online sites, including Walmart.com, as the strategy shifts toward selling new goods. But instead of competing directly, Mr. Edwards said Walmart.com and eBay may be entering of period of “cooperation,” especially with the company’s June 1 acquisition of Shopping.com, a comparison-shopping and consumer review site.

“Walmart.com could end up a partner because they are going to have to advertise their prices on shopping.com to compete,” Mr. Edwards said.

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