Not so fast: Wal-Mart epic not over yet

$65M multicultural media account still up for grabs; GSD&M sticking around

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The Wal-Mart agency review saga isn't over just yet.

After making over its agency roster for the second time in two months, Wal-Mart Stores still has unfinished business as it prepares to open a pitch for its $65 million-plus multicultural-media-buying account and continues talks with Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, regarding a project for its high-end George apparel brand, according to people familiar with the matter.

Wal-Mart also quietly signed incumbent GSD&M to a six-month extension of its contract, which was up at the end of the month. The Omnicom Group shop opted out of Wal-Mart's second review, which came after the December ouster of Julie Roehm, senior VP-marketing communications, and the agency she hired, Interpublic Group of Cos.' DraftFCB, Chicago.

Wal-Mart declined to comment on the agency developments, and Kirshenbaum had no comment.

While GSD&M still enjoys support among some executives in the retail giant's marketing department, the agency is unlikely to continue working with Wal-Mart beyond the summer, according to people close to the company.

"We helped build Wal-Mart from $11 billion in sales to $312 billion," said GSD&M President Roy Spence. "We declare victory. We will do everything to make the transition perfect."

GSD&M's contract extension will give Wal-Mart's new creative shop, Interpublic's Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., time to ramp up for what's easily its biggest account.

Wal-Mart also has been in talks with Kirshenbaum, a unit of MDC Partners, regarding a project for the retailer's George ME apparel brand from designer Mark Eisen, according to people familiar with the company. Kirshenbaum participated in the early rounds of Wal-Mart's first review last year, but it's not clear whether the project will get the go-ahead or lead to anything more permanent.

Meanwhile, it appears Publicis Groupe's MediaVest has won a chance to compete for Wal-Mart's multicultural-media assignment because its Tapestry unit is the leading multicultural-media-planning and -buying shop. Until now, Wal-Mart's ethnic creative agencies have also handled media for their segments.

The agencies that won creative duties for the multicultural account-Hispanic incumbent Lopez Negrete Communications, Houston; African-American agency GlobalHue, Southfield, Mich.; and Asian-American incumbent IW Group, Los Angeles-will compete against Tapestry for the media portion.

Wal-Mart spent $64 million on Spanish-language media in 2005 and was on pace for similar spending last year, according to data from TNS Media Intelligence, which doesn't break out data for African-American or Asian-American media.

contributing: brooke capps
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