Marketer's Brief: Walmart Makes Food Stamp E-commerce Play

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Welcome to the latest edition of Marketer's Brief, a quick take on marketing news, moves and trends from Ad Age's reporters and editors. Send tips/suggestions to [email protected]

Office Depot found a CMO, Ragu beat Prego in an ad claim challenge and Tommy Hilfiger has a new fashion bot. Find out about that and more in this week's Marketer's Brief edition. But first, we take a look at Walmart's newest appeal to food-stamp recipients.

Walmart Credit: Bloomberg Finance LP

Walmart, Amazon battle for food-stamp dollars
Walmart is making an e-commerce play for people using Electronic Benefit Transfer (i.e., food stamps). In a pilot launching at one store in Houston and four in Boise, Idaho, people can use EBT during store pickups of online orders. The move comes a little over three months after Amazon appeared to move in on Walmart's customer base by letting people using EBT get discounted Prime subscriptions for eligible grocery ordering. In a blog post, Walmart said the policy will expand to an unspecified number of other stores throughout the holiday season. Will Amazon follow suit with EBT store pickups at Whole Foods, once informally known as "Whole Paycheck?"

McDonald's overhaul forces one shop to close
Cossette is closing up shop in the Windy City after losing the chance to keep working on McDonald's local advertising in the U.S. Cossette, which is based in Canada and has been a creative agency for McDonald's up north for decades, opened a Chicago outpost in 2014 after winning the gig as the local ad agency for the McDonald's Operators of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. But McDonald's put all of the local ad accounts up for review this summer, as Ad Age reported, and Cossette pitched but did not make the cut as one of the seven groups set to handle work for various local markets. While the agency has had some other clients, including some work for Ronald McDonald House, the loss of the McDonald's local business was too big to bear. "Clearly, the McDonald's RFP process did not turn out the way we had hoped and we had to make a difficult decision," Cossette said in a statement. The closure affects 15 people. Alyssa Huggins, who opened the Chicago office, will take on a new role within Cossette's holding company, V7 International, leading its expansion in other U.S. markets. Cossette continues to work with McDonald's across Canada.

Physical stores not dead yet
Here's some rare good news for brick-and-mortar retailers: They're holding their own against e-commerce with Generation Z, according to a new study by IRI on the demographic of consumers ages 14-21. "Gen Z sees both brick-and-mortar and online retailers being equally able to deliver the brands they want—a large product selection, low pricing and enjoyable shopping experiences," IRI says in a preview of the report. It also found that "social media plays a far bigger role in influencing Gen Z purchase decisions than pricing or discounts." Find out more here.

Single focus
BB&T Corp. is pushing a new customer-centric brand message. The bank worked with its AOR Luquire George Andrews, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, on "All We See Is You," to highlight its attention to consumers. Debuting this week, the campaign includes two TV spots along with digital marketing.

Does this look OK?
In time for London Fashion Week, Tommy Hilfiger launched its first fashion bot to dole out style advice via Facebook Messenger. The designer unveiled the artificial intelligence offering at its Tuesday show. Many brands and retailers are taking advantage of chatbots to better connect with consumers.

Ragu wins sauce scuffle
Ragu rival Prego wasn't happy with claims that "consumers prefer the taste of Ragu Homestyle over Prego Traditional," but the National Advertising Division says Ragu maker Mizkan American Inc., gave a reasonable basis for the claim. Prego maker Campbell Soup Co. had brought a challenge. Both brands said they did consumer testing, with Ragu asking all red pasta-sauce users and Campbell only asking "traditional" pasta-sauce users. In Ragu's test, it was the preferred brand, but in the Campbell test the products were found to be at parity on taste. NAD said Campbell's sample group was overly restrictive and therefore Campbell's taste test and results weren't enough to override the Ragu version.

Credit: General Mills

Would you buy this?
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios joins the General Mills lineup in late October with suggested prices of $3.99 for a 12.3-ounce box and $4.99 for an 18.8-ounce box.

Number you need to know:

135,000: The number of kosher-certified retail food products available, up from fewer than 2,000 back in 1977, according to OU Kosher.

Tweet of Week:


There's a new top marketer at Office Depot. The Boca Raton, Florida-based office supply company recently tapped Jerri DeVard as executive VP and chief marketing officer. She was previously CMO at the ADT Corp. DeVard joins the brand at a challenging time; Amazon is gaining ground with its business supplies unit, which launched two years ago and now boasts more than 400,000 users. Earlier this year. Office Depot unveiled fresh branding from Zimmerman that revisits the "Taking care of business" tagline. Welch's named Lesya Lysyj as president of its U.S. business, leading sales and marketing. Her prior roles included serving as president of Weight Watchers North America and CMO of Heineken's U.S. business.

Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jack Neff, Adrianne Pasquarelli, Jessica Wohl

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