11 key Walmart executives leading its advertising business: 2020

  • Walmart is ramping up its efforts to compete with Amazon’s advertising business, taking its ad sales in-house and rolling out a self-serve ad platform and API to sell search ads.
  • Business Insider identified 11 people who are key to the retailer’s advertising push. They include Rich Lehrfeld, recently named interim head of advertising arm of Walmart Media Group, filling a role previously held by Stefanie Jay.
  • Others include people in marketing, product, and sales, and many come from agency, brand, and media backgrounds.
  • The stakes are high for Walmart, which wants a piece of the growing e-commerce ad budgets that Amazon dominates.
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Walmart has quietly run an advertising business for years. Now it’s ramping up the business to rival Amazon.

On October 14, Walmart announced that it was naming marketing exec Rich Lehrfeld to head advertising on an interim basis to fill the role of Stefanie Jay, who was stepping down.

Walmart has made a hard push into advertising over the past year. Walmart’s profit has declined in recent years, and advertising represents another source of profit. “Our data has never been monetized, and we have a tiny ad business,” president and CEO Doug McMillon told analysts in 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported. “It could be bigger.”

In January, Walmart formally rolled out a self-serve platform and application programming interface that lets advertisers buy search ads or work with adtech companies to manage their campaigns. Walmart tested the tools with advertisers like the gaming manufacturer Razer last year. Walmart also took its ad-sales business in-house last year after outsourcing it to Triad.

The goal is to compete with Amazon, now the third-largest digital-advertising company behind Google and Facebook. While the research firm Cowen expects Amazon to make $17.6 billion from advertising in 2020, up 36% from 2019, Walmart doesn’t break out its ad revenue. Last year, a WPP executive estimated that Walmart made $2 billion to $3 billion from advertising, Ad Age reported.

Walmart can’t match Amazon’s clout, so it’s banking on its physical stores, and the sales data they generate, as a key differentiator.

Advertisers are spending more dollars with online retailers, where people already have their wallets out and the retailers have rich data on them, and they’re eager for a company to challenge Amazon, which some complain is hard to navigate, doesn’t share enough data, and presents conflicts of interest.

But Walmart isn’t alone — Target, Kroger, and CVS are also getting into advertising as their retail businesses struggle.

And Walmart’s advertising efforts to date have been rocky. The retailer has long run an advertising business through its Walmart Media Group but is new at running its ad business all by itself.

Some advertisers have said Walmart’s ad business has been fraught with delays in campaigns and questions about how Walmart structures its agency and brand teams.

Business Insider compiled a list of 11 Walmart execs who are key to its advertising push.

The list is based on our reporting and spans marketing, sales, and product execs. Many of them previously worked at ad agencies, brands, and media companies. 

Five of the execs on this list report to Lehrfeld: Alexis Josephs, Stephen Howard-Sarin, Kara Rousseau, Ed Woo, and Balaji Krish.

Scroll down to see the full list, in alphabetical order by last name.

Do you work at Walmart and think we overlooked a key player? Have something else you want to share about Walmart? Email me at [email protected] or contact me on Confide or Signal at 720-261-0417. 

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