Wal-Mart checks out Canadian agencies

Wal-Mart Canada is visiting a number of Canadian advertising agencies in search of a shop to help in the launch of the 122-store retail chain in Canada.Wal-Mart President Bruce West confirmed his company is conducting an agency review, but declined to...

Wal-Mart Canada is visiting a number of Canadian advertising agencies in search of a shop to help in the launch of the 122-store retail chain in Canada.

Wal-Mart President Bruce West confirmed his company is conducting an agency review, but declined to discuss details.

It is understood Wal-Mart is only talking to Canadian ad agencies, and it is believed there are five in the running.

One story making the rounds is that Wal-Mart approached the Institute of Canadian Advertising and asked for a list of names of agencies that would meet a series of criteria, among them Canadian ownership.

An unconfirmed report is that the five agencies include: Ambrose Carr Linton and Kelly; Cossette Communication-Marketing; Harrod & Mirlin, which is in the final stages of patriating itself under Canadian ownership; SMW Advertising and Vickers & Benson Advertising.

The position of incumbent agency Gee Jeffery & Partners, which is the current agency for Woolco, the existing chain that Wal-Mart has bought as its launch platform, and promotions agency Strategic Amerpsand, is unclear.

It is expected Wal-Mart will handle a significant portion of its account in-house, and that it is looking to an ad agency for a mass marketing program.

In the u.s., Arkansas-based Wal-Mart has not been known as a big media spender except in specific markets where it had a strong competitive challenge.

The discount chain has relied traditionally on promotions and direct advertising, as well as the strong positioning and merchandising of its stores.

It is unclear why Wal-Mart has restricted its search to Canadian agencies. Some speculate it may try building an image of good corporate citizenry around its name.

Others believe Wal-Mart was simply restricted in its choices because of conflicts in big agencies, many of which have large retail accounts, and, in the case of multinationals, the hesitancy they might have in taking on a chain that often goes head-to-head against national branded products.

Wal-Mart’s agencies in the u.s. are gsd&m in Austin, Tex. and Bernstein-Rein in Kansas.