Visiting Wal-Mart? Let Omnicom buy you a cup of coffee

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Omnicom Group is looking for new clients in a surprising place--the shadows of Wal-Mart in Bentonville.

The holding company is investing in an unusual venture. It will open a 5,000-square-foot office facility called WALStreet just a stone's throw from the retail giant's Arkansas headquarters. The space is part Kinko's and part frequent-flier airport lounge that will be available as temporary office space for any and all business executives who make the corporate pilgrimage to Wal-Mart.

"No more working out of your briefcase" promise ads that dub WALStreet "a place to work and recharge." The space is sponsored by Omnicom companies National In-Store, Fleishman-Hillard, GSD&M (Wal-Mart's ad agency) and Radiate.

Visitors to the high-tech space can get free coffee, meeting space, wireless Internet service and low-cost video-conferencing and printing services.

They'll also get a not-so-subtle business pitch. Flat-panel screens will fill the office, including a 72-inch plasma TV at the entrance that at any time might be playing the best of Omnicom commercials.

In other words, it's a 5,000-square-foot agency pitch open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"We have many companies doing business with Wal-Mart, and more who want to," said Thomas Harrison, chairman-CEO of diversified agency services for Omnicom. "This is a way to have a presence, a real presence on the ground there."

And if an Omnicom executive serendipitously runs into a marketer executive in town to pitch Wal-Mart, and that company ends up as a client? "Certainly, we see some opportunity in those kind of conversations," Mr. Harrison said.

"Every major [package-goods] executive in the world travels to Bentonville at least three to four times a year," said Tom Dowdy, who, as president of Omnicom's National In-Store, a retail-event and field-marketing company, came up with the idea. "You don't have to go to New York City, Los Angeles or Hong Kong. You just have to go to Bentonville."

At least the coffee is free.

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