The winning agencies were first reported last Friday by AdAge. PRWeek has also learned from industry sources that Weber Shandwick was initially among those awarded the business, but dropped out because of client conflicts. WS, whose clients include Wal-Mart competitor Best Buy, declined comment. The winning agencies also declined comment for this article.
Following the initial posting of this article, Wal-Mart responded that it is "in final contract stages," but declined further comment.
"We are in final contract stages, but have no comment to add or information to share regarding our agency selection process," Tara Raddohl senior manager PR & brand reputation, wrote to PRWeek.
The retainer is slated to be in the low six-figure range, but some of the winning agencies are negotiating for the figure to go up during the ongoing contract talks, according to one source. The agencies, though, will have more than just a retainer to aid revenues, though. The winning agencies will compete with each other for projects, in addition to being assigned pieces of work and sometimes working collaboratively with each other, said the source.
The low retainer is intended to give the agencies the resources to bid for projects, which have more lucrative budgets, the source said. The source added that the three agencies will likely bid on work less often once Wal-Mart determines the strengths of each agency.
Wal-Mart initially planned to hire five agencies for the massive consumer PR and marketing brief. Edelman Chicago, the incumbent on the account since 2005, was eliminated from the review in April, though the agency continues to handle public affairs and other issues for it. Select Resources International assisted with the review. Dan Orsborn, senior partner, PR practice leader, at SRI declined to comment.
The retailer has fared relatively well during the recession, attracting new customers looking for bargains. But it is expected that among its next challenges is retaining these new post-recession customers.
Updated, June 24, 2009, 7:12pm