Wal-Mart remains undecided

Wal-Mart has yet to announce how it will handle its advertising needs in the Canadian market.A spokesperson for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said in a telephone conversation that the company 'is still considering its options.'Waiting on tenterhooks for the decision is Gee...

Wal-Mart has yet to announce how it will handle its advertising needs in the Canadian market.

A spokesperson for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said in a telephone conversation that the company ‘is still considering its options.’

Waiting on tenterhooks for the decision is Gee Jeffery & Partners Advertising, the Toronto-based agency-of-record for Woolco Department Stores.

Gee Jeffery has held the Woolco account since winning in an agency shoot-out in July 1991.

Peter Jeffery, president of Gee Jeffery, says his agency is under contract to Woolco and his understanding is that Wal-Mart will honor the contract until it expires.

‘How long will we work for them after that, who knows?’ Jeffery says.

Although Wal-Mart has revealed little about how it will market its newly acquired 120-store chain to Canadian consumers, one thing is likely: the retailer will not get away with the same minimalist approach to advertising that it has employed so successfully in rural America.

Wal-Mart got its start setting up large stores in small u.s. towns.

More often than not, the less sophisticated competition was soon wiped out, leaving Wal-Mart to go about its business with little need to advertise.

But while the u.s. is predominantly a rural society, Canada is predominantly urban.

Diana Pitsolis, senior vice-president and general manager of Ross Roy Canada, K-Mart’s Canadian ad agency, says Wal-Mart will doubtless do a thriving business north of the 49th parallel.

But Pitsolis expects the company will do so based on a typical Canadian retailer’s approach to advertising – employing tv, radio, newspapers and flyers.

She notes K-Mart’s American parent keeps close track of Wal-Mart’s activities, and it is aware that Wal-Mart has increasingly been relying on flyers in the u.s.

As well, she says they have lately been forced into running mass-media marketing programs, including tv advertising, in larger urban centres.PA