Poll Results: Wal-Mart Made Right Choice by Axing Julie Roehm

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Was Wal-Mart right to fire Julie Roehm and reopen its $580 million account review? A full 81% of Ad Age readers who responded to our online poll believe it was.

Most, in fact, weren't even surprised about the firing, given the culture clash between the conservative retailer and the bold Ms. Roehm, until recently senior VP-marketing communications. Ms. Roehm was let go after violating Wal-Mart's strict ethics policy, which bans taking even a free cup of coffee from a vendor.

Among her alleged missteps were attending a lavish dinner thrown by DraftFCB-which later was awarded the account-and endorsing the agency to search consultants also in attendance. She is also said to have accepted a ride in an Aston Martin owned by DraftFCB Chairman-CEO Howard Draft. And there are also reports-strenuously denied by both parties-that Ms. Roehm engaged in an improper personal relationship with a Wal-Mart colleague, Sean Womack.

"Ms. Roehm clearly did not understand her employer," said Sharon Morgan, a marketing-communications consultant. "The really odd thing is how she was even chosen in the first place!"

Wal-Mart "should stick to their model of success: conservative, simple, low-budget and family values. A high-profile, edgy campaign is wrong for them, and so are the people that go with it," said Michael Margolies, VP-creative services for Benchmark Brands.

But some questioned Wal-Mart's booting of its change agent. "It seems like she was trying to change [Wal-Mart's] tired image. I don't necessarily agree with the path she chose, but it would have been interesting to see how it would have panned out," said Michelle Contois, a sales and marketing assistant for Lock Inspection Systems.

Others found no fault in Ms. Roehm's behavior. "Agencies offer up their best face (and dinner selection) when trying to snag a $580 million-dollar client," said Adrienne Mansfield, regional media planner for Gregory Welteroth Advertising. "Ms. Roehm didn't partake in anything any more inappropriate than any other marketing consultant/rep does when being 'schmoozed' by a prospective agency."

What you say: 81% The overwhelming majority of respondents to Ad Age's reader poll think Wal-Mart's decision to fire Julie Roehm and reopen its review was the correct one. However, among the remaining 19% of respondents, some think the retail giant moved too hastily in letting Ms. Roehm go, wondering what she would have done there. Still others found nothing at all wrong with her behavior during the review.
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