GSD&M Opts Out of Wal-Mart Review

Declines Invite to Re-Pitch for $580 Million Account

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NEW YORK ( -- GSD&M has opted out of Wal-Mart's $580 million re-review of its creative and media accounts. The Omnicom Group agency and Wal-Mart incumbent based in Austin, Texas,
Photo: AP

GSD&M co-founder and President Roy Spence said his agency is "moving on" and will not be pitching the Wal-Mart account.

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Previous Wal-Mart Stories:

Dec. 7, 2006
Wal-Mart to Reopen $580 Million Account Review
Newly Appointed DraftFCB Cut Following Ouster of Julie Roehm
Dec. 5, 2006
Julie Roehm Out at Wal-Mart
Recently Completed $580 Million Wal-Mart Stores Agency Review
lost out to Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB in a decision made in late October. But Wal-Mart reversed that decision and reopened the review last week after ousting a pair of marketing executives involved in the review, including Julie Roehm, senior VP-marketing communications.

'We declare victory'
A statement from GSD&M co-founder and President Roy Spence read: "I want to thank Wal-Mart for inviting us to re-pitch the business. I have decided to decline. We helped build Wal-Mart from $11 billion in sales to $312 billion. We declare victory. We will do everything to make the transition perfect. We wish our great friends well. And we are moving on."

The agency's reasoning was not immediately clear, but the Wal-Mart review, which was announced back in May, is known to have put pressure on the agency, especially given the 20-year duration and high-profile nature of the relationship. GSD&M, which has a contract with Wal-Mart that extends until the end of January, is also said to be excited about the prospect of chasing retail accounts that Wal-Mart's business long kept the agency out of. And it's likely that the scandal that erupted following the dismissal of Ms. Roehm and Sean Womack, VP-communications architecture, made the account -- though large in terms of billings -- a less desirable piece of business.

Wal-Mart has invited the two other finalists from the previous review, WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather and Interpublic's Martin Agency, according to people familiar with the situation. The review is being managed by Select Resources International, which also handled the first review, and no other agencies are believed to be invited. A decision is expected by the end of January.

Very different approaches
The two agencies vying for the account couldn't be more different. Ogilvy is a global behemoth known for doing a full spectrum of marketing services, from traditional advertising to direct mail to interactive work, for marketers like IBM and American Express. The Richmond, Va.-based Martin Agency, on the other hand, is best known for producing offbeat work such as its Gecko campaign for the insurer Geico. Winning an account the size of Wal-Mart would be a major coup for an agency that's on the verge of becoming on the agency world's top players.

In the first review, Ogilvy pitched with WPP's Mediaedge:cia and Martin partnered with Interpublic sibling R/GA. Aegis Group's Carat, which partnered with DraftFCB to win Wal-Mart's media business in October only to see it go back in review, is once again vying for that business. Unlike DraftFCB, Carat was invited back into the review. It wasn't immediately clear how the agencies will partner on the redo.

Agency spokespeople either couldn't be reached or referred calls to Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has maintained that the review is being run by Chief Marketing Officer John Fleming, but executives familiar with the matter say it's being headed up by Wal-Mart Stores USA CEO Eduardo Castro-Wright and Stephen Quinn, senior VP-marketing.

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Lisa Sanders contributed to this report.
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