Wal-Mart: Rolling Out the Newspaper Ads

By: Jennifer Saba Wal-Mart, the King Kong of retailers, is having second thoughts. Until recently, the company barely advertised in newspapers. But a funny thing happened this past November: The retailer that could do no wrong (at least in terms of sales) experienced a holiday shortfall. Wasting little time, Wal-Mart placed newspaper ads in 15 markets. The strategy worked, and sales increased.

Newspapers hit the jackpot again when Wal-Mart placed full page, four-color ads in more than 100 papers starting Jan. 13 in response to criticism that the retailer is a 1,000-lb. gorilla when it comes to the treatment of its workers.

When asked if the two ad flights are a sign of more to come, media economist Miles Groves says, "Do two data points make a trend? No." But he adds that any increased spending on newspaper ads on Wal-Mart's part ? approximately 1% of its revenues ? would be a real boon. And it may happen. Wal-Mart's branding is hurting and the competition is closing in, signs that suggest heavier ad spending to come.


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