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Wal-Mart reviews advertising strategy

/ Source: The Associated Press

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is reviewing its advertising strategy — accounts reportedly worth more than a half billion dollars — as part of a larger overhaul the world's biggest retailer has begun of its marketing image.

The business under review is worth about $578 million, according to an online report Wednesday by Advertising Age. The trade journal did not cite a source for the information.

Officials at Omnicom Group Inc.'s GSD&M, in Austin, Texas, and independent Bernstein-Rein, based in Kansas City, Mo., confirmed Wednesday they were notified by Wal-Mart in recent days about the media review.

The move has been long anticipated since former Target Corp. executive John Fleming became Wal-Mart's chief marketing officer last summer. Fleming, who had previously headed up, has begun shaking up the discounter's ad strategy in an effort to get its well-heeled shoppers to buy more merchandise beyond food. Over the past year, Wal-Mart, which is expanding to higher-quality apparel and other merchandise, has run ad campaigns in Vogue magazine, and has de-emphasized its trademark Smiley in TV ads, which is linked to its low price mantra.

Gail Lavielle, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the company wants to "have the very best resources to make sure we have consistent messaging" across all its marketing efforts. She declined to comment on how much business is at stake.

The two agencies, both of which have worked with Wal-Mart for many years, said they aim to defend their established business with Wal-Mart.

"They are going through a lot of marketing changes, and so this is something that we have been anticipating," said Steve Bernstein, chief operating officer at Bernstein-Rein, which has worked for Wal-Mart for 32 years. "Sam (Walton) chose us, and we have always treated it like a test."

Officials at GSD&M, which was notified on Monday, said that they have created ads for Wal-Mart for 19 years, developing the "Always Low Prices" campaign. The agency helped create the Wal-Mart ad campaign with Vogue magazine.

Typically, a review involves the company hiring a consultant to study a number of ad agency clients, which are then narrowed further and then assigned an advertising project. Lavielle declined to give details about how long the process would take.