Walmart and Publicis forge strategic relationship in surprise deal

Months after losing the retailer's media business, the holding company has nabbed Walmart's U.S. creative and in-store duties.

BENTONVILLE, AK: Walmart and Publicis Groupe have formed a non-exclusive "strategic relationship" that gives the retailer access to all of the holding group’s agencies.

The partnership, which went into effect on July 1, will initially apply to Walmart’s U.S. advertising and in-store creative, for which the holding company will serve as AOR.

"Our ambition globally is to make every day easier for busy families, and having best-in-class marketing is critical to achieving that goal," said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart Stores, in a statement. "This relationship with Publicis Groupe will help us think and act differently, which will ultimately enable us to serve our customers even better."

How the new partnership with Publicis will affect the retailer’s relationships with other agencies was not immediately clear. Walmart, which spends close to $1 billion in measured media annually, works with creative shops The Martin Agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Rain in the U.S.

The move represents a bit of redemption for Publicis, which lost Walmart’s media account earlier this year. Just weeks after U.S. CMO Stephen Quinn left the company on Janunary 31, the Arkansas-based retailer said it was moving its media business away from Publicis’ Mediavest, ending a decade-long relationship. The Walmart loss came shortly after Mediavest lost two other major media accounts, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble in the U.S.  

Quinn was succeeded by Tony Rogers, a longtime Walmart marketer.

The move also serves as a validation of Publicis’ new structure, which emphasizes four "solution hubs" over individual agency networks. The new "client-first" model customizes teams for each client depending on its needs rather than agency capabilities. In a statement announcing the deal, Maurice Lévy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe, said the new deal was a direct result of that new structure.

"This relationship is the direct result of Publicis’ new approach, ‘the power of one,’ which is designed to deliver end-to end solutions for our clients," said Lévy. "Walmart is already implementing innovative approaches to reach its customers. Our goal is to leverage all of Publicis’ assets — not just the resources of one agency — to help them in these efforts."

In April, Walmart's U.K. brand, Asda, handed both its creative and media acocunt to Publicis, with Saatchi taking creative duties and Blue 449 handling media.

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