Sweet dreams, Sam Walton

Walmartad

Wal-Mart broke two new commercials yesterday about citizenship and corporate values to provide a counterbalance to its detractors. The irony meter’s into the red on this one. Even non-cynics are probably rolling their eyes. The chain enlisted Blue Ray, a unit of PR giant Edelman, to fashion the pair of feel-good commercials that frequently approximate the look and feel of political ads—with a nod to Hal Riney, there’s even a "Morning Again in America"-style voiceover in one spot. (To see the commercials, look for the video streams entitled, “Sam’s Dream” and “One Company,” at this link.) Strangely, it’s the supers that make these seem so much like political ads—which they effectively are. They include such pro-Wal-Mart factoids as, “saves working families $2300/year,” “[creates] thousands of new American jobs,” “[offers] health insurance premiums less than $1/day,” “$245 million to charities, most given locally.” Of course, Edelman generated lots of negative press for the client last year by faking a pro-Wal-Mart blog. And, of course, Wal-Mart kicked DraftFCB off its $570 million ad business just weeks after hiring the agency and re-opened its account review amid allegations of executive impropriety—or at the very least, bad judgment. But let’s get back to this bit about “Sam’s Dream.” Given Wal-Mart’s current state of turmoil, what would Sam Walton dream about if he were alive today? Would he wake with a jolt, sweat-soaked Stetson slipping to the floor, lips a-quiver with night terrors no smiley-faced psychotherapist could drive from his mind? One can almost picture the company founder still half asleep, rattling off a litany of horrors: "Howard Draft … Wall-Street research notes … Again with that stupid union? … Julie Roehm … Michael Moore … We can’t be sold out of Hello Kitty t-shirts! … Oh my God, not another Target store!"

—Posted by David Gianatasio and Catharine P. Taylor