News Briefs


Walmart Canada Adds Digital Audio Advertising


Walmart Canada has joined Canadian music, media and technology company Stingray Group’s retail media network. Under the agreement, Stingray is responsible for exclusive sales representation, in partnership with the Walmart Connect sales team, of all digital audio advertising within Walmart’s Canadian's stores.

The network enables brands to reach Walmart Canada shoppers through contextually relevant audio messages that are digitally ad-served (directly or programmatically) via Stingray’s proprietary streaming media technology, according to a news release announcing the partnership. Retail-based digital audio advertising enables brands to connect with “highly qualified” consumers during their in-store shopping journey.

“The Stingray team has built a powerful new model in the programmatic audio space, and their solution, combined with a focus on closed-loop measurement, aligns well with our goal of providing advertisers with innovative solutions that connect brands with customers in moments that matter,” Dana Toering, vice president, Walmart Connect Canada, said in the release.“These highly customizable audio ads are the perfect complement to our existing in-store and online offerings, providing something new to brands that are looking to boost their influence with the 1.5 million shoppers who visit Walmart stores daily across Canada.”

The network launches in 200 of Walmart Canada’s more than 400 stores in April. The remaining stores will launch by the end of the second quarter of 2022.

In January, Stingray expanded its retail-based digital audio advertising footprint in the U.S. by acquiring InStore Audio Network, an American network that reached 100 million shoppers each week in over 16,000 grocery retailers and pharmacies across the country. Under Stingray's ownership, InStore Audio Network continues to broaden its existing retail media offering with a focus on verified audience measurement, digital ad serving and programmatic monetization.


Bluebird Group Adds Walmart as Retail Partner


The Bluebird Group, an omnichannel retail service agency, has added Walmart as a partner following the acquisition of 479 Sales & Marketing, a Bentonville, Arkansas-based, omnichannel agency. The expansion adds to Bluebird's team of “strategically minded experts” and allows them to offer a larger array of services designed to help in-demand brands become retail-ready and deliver their products in-store and online, according to a news release from the agency.

"Our combined industry knowledge, data insights and analytics will provide our brand partners with the best services available," said Jason Kapsner, founder & CEO of Bluebird, in the release. "The 479 team shares our mission to be analytically forward-thinking and trusted stewards of our brand and retail partners. Their Walmart expertise is evident in their long-standing client relationships."

Bluebird has relationships with retailers including Target, Best Buy and Costco. The acquisition of 479 allows the company to expand their expertise to Walmart, and Sam's Club. All employees of 479 will transition to Bluebird and remain in Arkansas to continue to foster their Walmart relationships.

"We've been methodical in our search for the right partner,” said Kapsner. “We've been wanting to grow our relationship with Walmart, and 479 can help us do that. We're excited to bring them under the Bluebird umbrella and provide new opportunities for our brand and retail partners."


Volta Appoints Interim CEO


Volta Inc.’s board of directors has appointed Brandt Hastings, chief revenue officer at Volta, as interim CEO, effective immediately. Hastings will also retain his title as CRO. This appointment follows Scott Mercer's decision to step down as chairman and CEO of Volta last month. The board has commenced a formal search for a permanent CEO.

Hastings is a revenue executive with two decades of experience building business models and driving growth for global companies such as iHeartMedia and Clear Channel Communications. He currently leads Volta's advertising and charging solutions businesses to deliver measurable impact to international brands, agency partners, commercial properties and retail locations, according to a news release. Hastings has led Volta's revenue growth and expanded the company's site partner relationships significantly since joining the company in 2020.

"Volta is a strong company with immense opportunity as the world transitions to electric mobility," said Kathy Savitt, co-chair of the board, in the release. "We want to thank Scott Mercer, who built this company with an incredible vision. As the board conducts a complete and formal search for a permanent CEO, we are confident that [Hastings] will lead Volta's teams to realize the company's significant potential."


Cannabis Retailer Brings Tech-Savvy Destination to Los Angeles


Premium cannabis retailer HerbNJoy has opened a tech-savvy store in Beverly Hills, California. Among its features, the curated retail space includes a bespoke interactive digital wall, elevated interior design and a concierge front desk where shoppers can receive one-to-one customer service.

With this location, the cannabis retailer is doubling down on its focus of ensuring the shopping experience is “unintimidating, inclusive and informative,” according to a media release from HerbNJoy. The Beverly Hills store will launch a series of events and activations related to wellness, education, entertainment and community support through strategic partnerships and philanthropic endeavors, such as advocating for cannabis criminal justice reform.

“With so many cannabis companies either stuck in the past, or adopting the same generic models, HerbNJoy sets itself apart by operating at the intersection of cannabis, technology and lifestyle, combined with a social and cultural responsibility, seeing the importance of education, inclusivity and supporting minority groups that have been vilified by our institutions and media,” Jeff Linden, chief operating officer and co-founder of HerbNJoy, said in the release.


Staples Debuts In-Store Tech Repair Hub


Electronics repair provider Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions has partnered with office supplies retailer Staples to open a tech repair hub within one store in Concord, New Hampshire. The hub offers professional fixes for most consumer electronics, from smartphones, tablets and computers to game consoles, smart speakers and drones.

Asurion’s experts claim they can help with most any tech mishap, and many basic repairs (e.g., cracked screens, battery issues and water damage) can often be completed in two hours or less, according to a news release from the company.

In addition to the services offered by Asurion, the Staples store in Concord will continue to provide tech services for Windows and Intel laptops, as well as data recovery services through the Staples Technology Service Area.

"Staples Stores are the destination for working and learning ideas and solutions, and convenient repair services play a critical role in how we support the small business community around this location," said Brian Coupland, senior vice president, merchandising, Staples U.S., in the release. "We look forward to working with Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions to amplify our tech support offerings and elevate the customer experience at the Staples Store in Concord."

The Concord location brings Asurion's retail footprint to nearly 800 locations across the U.S. Formerly known as uBreakiFix, all U.S. locations will rebrand as Asurion Tech Repair & Solutions throughout 2022.


Former Wall Street Journal Exec Joins EnsembleIQ

craig lowe

Path to Purchase IQ parent company EnsembleIQ has tapped new talent as it invests in new enterprise membership and subscriptions initiatives by leveraging its unique market expertise across grocery, drug, convenience, retail technology and consumer goods channels. The company has appointed former Wall Street Journal executive Craig Lowe as senior vice president of membership and subscriptions. In this newly created role, Lowe will be responsible for the overall strategy and delivery of these offerings.

“Today we have two high-value membership products – Path to Purchase Institute and Restaurant Technology Network. By bringing Craig into EnsembleIQ, our goal is to create new, innovative membership and subscription experiences that leverage our actionable intelligence and connections across key retail channels. Craig will provide strategic leadership to ensure that we are tailoring our solutions to fulfill the needs of our business decision maker audiences and new constituencies seeking to grow their businesses,” said Jennifer Litterick, CEO of EnsembleIQ, in a news release. 

Lowe brings vast international membership and subscription experience from across both B2B information services marketplace and consumer media. He has created paid subscriptions and membership programs, transformed a conferences business as well as led controlled circulation, news trade sales and marketing initiatives. He was most recently vice president, global audience marketing at Dow Jones, where he was responsible for delivering audiences for the Wall Street Journal’s global events business and developing membership growth strategies for all WSJ Professional membership propositions. Earlier in his career, Lowe was with BMI Research, Espicom Business Intelligence, Saga Publishing Ltd, Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc and Centaur Media Plc.