Armstrong's Rollback: Former Arts CEO Takes on Wal-Mart 

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Brad's back.

L. Bradford Armstrong, the former president and chief executive of the much-maligned Virginia Performing Arts Foundation, has returned to The Martin Agency to head up the Wal-Mart account that the advertising firm won last month.

Armstrong was a partner at The Martin Agency before leaving to spearhead the downtown performing arts center project in 2001. In that role, Armstrong became known for his unbending optimism in the face of heated criticism from Mayor L. Douglas Wilder and for many missed fundraising deadlines. In September 2005, at the mayor's insistence, Armstrong became a casualty of the foundation's reorganization.

John Adams, chairman and chief executive of The Martin Agency, says he's not concerned about Armstrong's rough ride in the press.

"We've known Brad for a long time and we know what kind of guy he is, and we were delighted to welcome him back," Adams says.

Armstrong voluntarily took a $100,000 pay cut from the arts foundation in September 2005, reducing his pay to $175,000, but was fond of saying he made a financial sacrifice when he left The Martin Agency. He still sits on the foundation's board of directors. Armstrong did not return calls by press time.

The agency has several other high-profile clients; despite his accent, the GEICO Gecko was born in Martin's Shockoe Slip offices. But Wal-Mart is the biggest one yet, an agency spokesperson says.

The Martin Agency will get an undisclosed chunk of Wal-Mart's $570 million ad account, overseeing its creative and strategic planning portions. That means designing television commercials, print ads, radio spots and whatever else they can come up with to help the world's biggest retailer get, well, bigger.

Adams says he and Armstrong were in touch during the Wal-Mart negotiations and that Armstrong was there for the final pitch meeting. He expects to roll out the new ads sometime this spring. S

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