Big shops moving in

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Kevin Roberts, CEO of Publicis Groupe's Saatchi and Saatchi, waxed eloquent at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, of all places, about the potential of the shopping cart as an ad medium of the future. Putting money where his mouth is, Mr. Roberts competed fiercely in Procter & Gamble Co.'s recently concluded one-stop promotion shop review, which, on three pilot projects, combines shopper- and direct-marketing assignments in a single shop.

Near the outset of the review, Mr. Roberts bought Thompson Murray, the Fayetteville, Ark., shop that handles P&G's Wal-Mart Stores marketing, and combined it with Saatchi's existing retail marketing unit to form Saatchi & Saatchi X. According to one executive familiar with the matter, Saatchi X spent about $500,000 on the pitch, including retaining fashion consultant Donna Karan as a consultant. Saatchi X executives didn't return calls for comment.

The effort paid off, as Saatchi won one of the three pilot projects for P&G's health and beauty business, with Publicis sibling Frankel, Chicago, taking another and Omnicom Group's Integer Group, Denver, a third.

The review was an outgrowth of efforts by P&G to streamline its roster of 200 below-the-line shops, including 50 retail-marketing shops. But a P&G spokeswoman downplayed the impact of the new assignments, saying P&G brands in health and beauty or other businesses won't be forced to choose one of the shops.

Some other executives familiar with the process, however, believe many P&G brands ultimately will funnel their promotion work into one of the three shops.

Aside from P&G, several marketers, such as McDonald's Corp., have been moving to consolidate their in-store or co-op marketing assignments in recent years, said Mark McMullen, senior VP-director of business development of Integer. But while those moves, and retailer consolidation, mean fewer shops and assignments, they also mean bigger accounts, he said.

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