Power Players 2009

Walmart's Stephen Quinn Is Ad Age's No. 6 Power Player

The Giant Retailer Now Understands Its Marketing Power--and Uses It Too

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Last Year
THE POWER: When you're the biggest retailer on Earth, it's not easy to get more powerful -- until media fragmentation and retail consolidation lend you a hand. A Walmart that once failed to fully appreciate or wield its marketing power has lost those inhibitions under the leadership of Stephen Quinn. Walmart's demands -- or perhaps strong suggestions -- that suppliers fork over a growing share of consumer marketing budgets for pay-to-play programs are buttressed by moves to shrink product assortments and free in-store promotion opportunities that once cluttered stores.

THE NUMBERS: Walmart's been one of the few retailers growing the top line during the recession, matched or bested by a shrinking number of rivals, such as CVS and dollar stores. With more than $400 billion in global sales and $300 billion in U.S. sales (including about $47 billion from Sam's Club), any growth is pretty substantial -- although harder to achieve.

Measured media spend in 2008 was $863 million, and in the first half of 2009, measured outlay soared by 32% to $423 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Senior VP-Advertising Tony Rogers and Wanda Young, senior director of digital marketing, help round out an increasingly innovative marketing team. Other former lieutenants of Mr. Quinn -- Stephen Bratspies and Greg Hall -- have gone on to head dry grocery and entertainment merchandising, respectively, as part of former-CMO, now chief merchandising officer, John Fleming's organization, giving marketing alums unprecedented power at Walmart.

THE CHALLENGE: The prospect of an economic recovery is dicey for Walmart, which has thrived during the recession. Better times will test whether the ultimate value retailer can keep growing as robustly and hold onto increased sales from upscale shoppers when the economy improves. With the stock down 9% to date in 2009, investors are betting it can't.

THE AGENCIES: Interpublic's Martin Agency and Publicis Groupe's MediaVest lead a team with some notable sibling additions in the past year, including Interpublic's R/GA as digital agency of record and Publicis & Hal Riney to handle the restage of the Great Value megabrand. Edelman Worldwide has led a substantially improved PR effort.

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