You thought this month's airing of the retailer's new ad campaign closed the book once and for all on the saga whose brand of luxe intrigue -- all Nobu 57, Aston Martins, Patek Philippes, topless Ford models and lychee martinis -- proved, if nothing else, that a Jay McInerney plot could bloom from an RFP when sprinkled with just enough excess and ego.
Rather than bring closure, the generally well-received ads -- with the tagline "Save Money. Live Better" -- crafted by the Martin Agency sparked all kinds of head-scratching around the industry, thanks to a fast-moving rumor that a shop other than Martin had actually cooked up Wal-Mart's tagline.
Turns out, the rumor was more of a fact.
'No hard feelings'
An enormously similar tagline, "Save More. Live Better," had previously been pitched by GSD&M, Wal-Mart's longtime shop which pulled out of the review. Check that. GSD&M, recently rebranded GSD&M Idea City, actually pulled out of the Wal-Mart re-review, the do-over called after the ginormous retailer nullified its initial decision to award its $570 million account to DraftFCB. Wal-Mart executives felt that Julie Roehm, the marketer running the review, had gotten too close to DraftFCB executives during the search, something both sides have repeatedly denied.
Asked whether there was anything to the tagline discussion, Roy Spence, chairman-CEO of Idea City, responded with this statement: "Our entire campaign that we pitched was anchored in the tagline and idea of 'Save More. Live Better.' We thought we nailed it. We have no idea what other agencies presented. We have no hard feelings at all toward anyone involved on this matter. None."
A Wal-Mart spokesman played down the significance of the claim, saying that credit for that tagline should really go back to company founder Sam Walton, who in 1992, dropped this knowledge: "We save people money so they can live better." Years after his death, that nugget would be translated into the brand-positioning statement, "Shop Smart. Live Better." Which was on the creative brief that each finalist received. Martin then recommended the testing of a few taglines and, voilà, "Save Money. Live Better" emerged.
Smiles all around
"We're happy, they seem happy; not sure where the problem is," wrote Nick Agarwal, the Wal-Mart spokesman, in an e-mailed deconstruction of the issue or, if you prefer, nonissue.
Just to recap: So Wal-Mart ends up going through two agency reviews, an embarrassing scandal and legal skirmish, only to result in an ad campaign that, while nicely executed, amounted to the excavation of a 15-year-old quote that touts savings and low prices, pretty much the marketing approach used before the review.
Right. No problem here. Just the creative process at work. Carry on.