R.I.P. Retailer Dominance, 1970–2006

Joe Mandese

Some recent moves by the world's largest retailer appear to signal an important shift in control of consumer marketing intelligence. And if I am right, it means we have officially exited an era dominated by big retailers ever since the rise of the universal product code back in the 1970s and 1980s. The era we are entering is one dominated by consumers themselves.

But first the forensics. Here is what I have observed. Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, the big retailer known as Asda in the UK, recently wrapped up a closely watched review of its advertising account in the US and selected two agencies that I believe reveal a great deal about its intentions – and maybe even its changing needs. Interpublic's recently-fused Draft FCB picked up Wal-Mart's advertising account, while Carat was named to handle media strategy and buying. The assignments are telling for several reasons, suggesting that Wal-Mart is desperately in need of new consumer insights.