Is former Publicis man Rick Bendel behind Wal-Mart’s $2.4bn global ad review?

He just might be. Bendel, who used to run the Wal-Mart owned Asda account at Publicis in London, quit to join Asda as marketing director four years ago and was then promoted last year to be Wal-Mart’s head marketing honcho in all markets outside the US.

Ad Age reports that Wal-Mart is reviewing its agency arrangements across the world, a fairly significant event as it spends $2.4bn on advertising, split roughly half and half between the Us and other markets which include Brazil, Canada and China.

If so this would seem like good news for Publicis Groupe, Bendel’s former employer, except that Bendel fired Publicis from the UK accouunt a couple of years ago, appointing Saatchi & Saatchi in its stead. Saatchis is still owned by Publicis Groupe of course, but this suggests that Bendel is no patsy.

Wal-Mart’s $1bn plus US account is handled chiefly by Omnicom’s Martin Agency with others, including Publicis, looking after bits around the edges. But Virginia-based Martin is hardly in a position to handle the whole lot around the world, not without help from one of its big Omnicom brothers anyway.

Wal-Mart is believed to want to save money (there’s a surprise) and boost its businesses outside the UK, some of which are doing better than others. Bendel, who doesn’t seem to have been a contender to be head of Asda in the UK after long-time boss Andy Bond stepped down recently, is ambitious and a successful global marketing re-alignment for Wal-Mart would make him arguably the most important marketing boss on the planet.

But which agency will get the nod?

All the networks would kill for the job, including WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell who’s been tracking Tesco, Wal-Mart’s biggest global rival, unavailingly for years. Omnicom’s the incumbent and Publicis is strong too, its MediaVest agency handles Wal-Mart media in the US.

Publicis Groupe boss Maurice Levy chose not to move Bendel further up the Publicis ladder before he left, preferring a French succession.

Will this decision come back to haunt him?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.