Walmart also recently handed project work to Omnicom's digital
agency, Organic , San Francisco, according to people familiar with
the matter. Walmart declined to comment on that and a spokeswoman
for Organic didn't return calls for comment. Both R/GA and Martin
declined to comment.
Walmart spent $874 million last year on measured media,
according to Kantar Media, $58 million of that on internet display.
Spending overall and on internet display were both down sharply in
the first half of 2011 vs. the year-ago period, with overall
spending down 52% to $232 million and internet down 49% to $15
million. But Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., told an investor
conference last month that the retailer plans to double advertising
"volume" or impressions this holiday season vs. a year ago.
The mega-retailer and R/GA have worked together since 2008, with
R/GA largely handling social media and charged with increasing
engagement on Walmart's Facebook page. Currently, the page has
nearly 10.5 million fans and recently added a My Local Walmart
feature that lets fans sign up for deals and information such as
store maps directly from their local stores. To a smaller extent,
R/GA was tasked with creating online banners and other digital ad
R/GA, New York, joined Richmond, Va.-based Martin on Walmart's
roster following a review. Originally Martin, named Walmart's
creative agency in 2006, had also been tasked with digital work.
But people familiar with the matter said that didn't work out, and
Walmart worked extensively on a project basis with digital shops,
Interactive, Columbus, and Rockfish, Rogers, Ark., before
calling the review that led to R/GA being named.
Walmart's contract with R/GA is understood to be in force
through the end of the retailer's fiscal year at the end of
January, which means the lost revenue won't hit the agency's books
in calendar 2011. It's a rare loss of a client for R/GA, which will
need to work hard to replace the Walmart business next year. But
not having Walmart on the roster opens up a range of new
opportunities for the shop, since the retailer is so strict about
Regardless of how much digital work it ends up doing, Martin has
received hearty approval for its TV work at a host of recent public
appearances by Walmart executives, who've showed off ads
highlighting the return of layaway after a five-year hiatus and a
tear-jerking spot showing a soldier mom returning home from
Mr. Simon told investors last month that Walmart, besides
ramping up TV spending, will increase holiday print spending from a
year ago behind seven tabs, 10 freestanding inserts, a toy catalog
and a holiday entertaining guide. But the company's only mention of
internet display and search last month had to do with stepped-up
weight behind Walmart.com in urban areas where the retailer has few
"If you don't see Walmart on TV, call Bill Simon," he said.
"Because you're not watching TV."
Contributing: Kunur Patel