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Retail 'Power Players' Spend Big Despite Downturn

Advertising Age this week ranks 30 "Power Players" with big ad budgets and a taste for innovation. Ad Age's list includes four retail honchos: Stephen Quinn of Wal-Mart, Richard Gerstein of Sears Holdings, Peter Sachse of Macy's, and Mike Boylson of J.C. Penney.
What can we learn?

Stephen Quinn, CMO, Wal-Mart Stores: Counterintuitively, Wal-Mart doubled ad spend in the first half of this year, "pouring money into TV and circulars" to spread the message that Wal-Mart is the cash-strapped American's best bud. Ad Age wonders whether that will resonate in more prosperous times, but we may not need to worry about that any time soon. Ad budget: $1.1 billion

Richard Gerstein, CMO, Sears Holdings Corp.: Both Sears Roebuck and Kmart have "embraced digital marketing and integrated partnerships," with Sears promoting back-to-school on social networking sites and Kmart doing more movie tie-ins. Will new media stem declining same-store sales? Ad budget: $1.63 billion

Peter Sachse, President-Corporate Marketing, Macy's: Celebrity marketing works for the nation's largest department store chain; when TV spots feature Martha Stewart's home goods or Carlos Santana's stiletto heels, "collections featured in those commercials see an immediate sales uptick." Having rolled up dozens of regional players, Macy's launched a localization initiative called My Macy's, which media companies are watching closely. Ad budget: $1.39 billion

Mike Boylson, CMO, J.C. Penney: Cinema, online, and gaming played a part in Penney's marketing efforts, but the biggest part of Boylson's budget was a record-breaking campaign to launch the American Living brand created with Polo Ralph Lauren. "J.C. Penney has been vocal about its intent to invest in marketing despite the tough economy," the magazine says. "The retailer will need to wow customers in order to stand out." Ad budget: $1.16 billion

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