Chicago Sun Times offers some speculation for the sudden departure of Wal-Mart marketing boss Julie Roehm after less than a year on the job. The article speculates about a connection with the ad agency Roehm helped choose to handle the Wal-Mart account, Draft FCB.
One source familiar with Wal-Mart and its policies suggested Roehm, in her dealings with Howard Draft [shown with Roehm in an Ad Age illustration], might have played too fast and loose with the company's strict corporate gratuities policy. Or her possible flouting of that policy -- said to be one of the strictest in corporate America -- might just have been a piece of ammunition Wal-Mart used to get rid of Roehm.
A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the policy simply states no one who works for the company can accept any sort of gratuities from suppliers, even a cup of coffee.
Interestingly, Roehm's sudden departure also comes just a week after reports first surfaced of a mind-boggling blunder by Draft FCB/Chicago. Fresh off its win of the Wal-Mart account in October, the agency placed an ad in a trade publication called Creativity that was intended to honor winners of the coveted Lion Awards at the 2006 Cannes International Advertising Festival, considered the most prestigious of a multitude of annual advertising competitions. Draft FCB's shockingly tasteless print ad graphically portrayed a real male and female lion having sex above a copy line that read "It's Good to Be on Top."
Though a Draft FCB spokesman at the time called the ad "a terrible mistake," the damage was already done. The appearance of the ad could have prompted some within the Wal-Mart organization to begin to have serious second thoughts about Draft FCB, and Roehm might have suddenly found herself under considerable pressure to defend her selection of the agency to handle the retailer's huge ad account.