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Brand Strategy #Creativity In-house Agency

See inside Walmart’s colossal, new LA creative studio with VP of creative David Hartman


By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

April 19, 2024 | 5 min read

Lights, camera, action: on an exclusive tour and interview, Hartman guides The Drum’s LA reporter through the 80,000-square foot studio in Playa Vista, revealing its prolific production capabilities and proximity to LA’s brightest creative minds.

walmart sound stage

Walmart's 4,300-square-foot soundstage in Los Angeles / Credit: Walmart

Playa Vista, one of Los Angeles’ bustling entertainment, media and tech hubs, has welcomed its newest superstar resident: Walmart Studios.

Last month, the world’s largest retailer opened the doors to its new creative epicenter: an 80,000-square-foot complex – roughly the size of one-and-a-half football fields – to house its own state-of-the-art production studio and internal agency of record, Walmart Creative Studio.

From the moment you step inside, the magnitude of Walmart Studios’ capabilities is apparent. From a production standpoint, the sprawling facility boasts a sound stage, recording studio, daylight studio, social photo studio and an array of editing and post-production suites. Among its guest-friendly amenities are a lobby, fully equipped kitchen and a smattering of conference rooms. It’s clear that the facility was designed to adapt to new technologies.

daylight studio
audio room

All of this an effort to help Walmart “create content at the speed of culture and retail,” as David Hartman, vice-president of creative, explained to me during a tour of the space.

Walmart Studios is, in essence, an in-house production company and creative agency company rolled into one. Its creatives exclusively produce commercial content for Walmart.

“We follow the same best practices that any external agency does when they’re sourcing talent or working with freelancers, directors and photographers,” he said. “It’s very standard to what you would find with other creative agencies and production companies.”

In Walmart’s studio, the team produces everything from lifestyle photography to full commercial shoots. The 4,300-square-foot sound stage is one of the largest of any creative agency.

The team estimates that the facility can execute at least 10 distinct in-camera shoots simultaneously, with up to 20 additional post production-related projects.

By all accounts, the facility seems to be living up to that expectation. In just a few short weeks since its grand opening on March 11, Walmart Studios has already churned out a staggering 40,000 individual assets. With a current team of 50 on-site creative professionals, Walmart Studios is poised for further growth and expansion.

The rapid success and burgeoning potential of Walmart Studios is deeply inspiring to an industry veteran like Hartman. Before leading Walmart Creative Studio, Hartman spearheaded creative teams at UnitedHealth Group and Target. At Target, he established the Brand Design Lab, birthing over 30 brands across retail categories, yielding over $20bn in sales.

“Within the marketing organization here at Walmart, we talk about ‘putting the brand in the culture and putting the culture in the brand.’ So, when I reflect on my experience that I’m hoping to bring into the creative at Walmart, it’s exactly that,” he said. “Having a marketing background in retail, agency and healthcare, helps bring a more rounded perspective to how Walmart can be differentiated and better connected to our customers.”

But what led Walmart to choose Playa Vista as its creative hub? As it turns out, Walmart sees the area as a valuable strategic asset. The new studio is situated in a bustling ecosystem; Walmart’s neighbors include tech titans Meta, Apple, Google and Microsoft, as well as a handful of acclaimed ad agencies including Deutsch LA and Media Arts Lab.

“There is a natural gravitational pull to this part of LA, so we are trying to have a brand presence that allows us to connect with those creative thinkers, and do so in a way that, perhaps, makes people re-evaluate how they perceive Walmart as well,” he said.

Hartman also elaborated on the top-tier talent that Los Angeles has been known to attract since its start, stating, “Being in LA affords us access to a tremendous talent pool, both in front of and behind the camera; we’ve collaborated with talent who bring a wealth of great in-house experience and agency experience.”

Looking ahead, Hartman said he sees great potential for the studio and its ability to both enhance creativity within the Walmart company as well as help it better serve its customers: “We see a tremendous opportunity for creative and we are ambitious for the space to deliver against that.”

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