Why Walmart’s New Ad Speaks ‘More Than Words’

Walmart in February rolled out a spot, called “More Than Words,” promoting its partnership with the National Urban League in celebration of Black History Month. The spot, by GlobalHue (named Adweek’s Multicultural Agency of the Decade), shows a young, African-American boy rising to the challenge of tutoring a much older man. (“All I know is his name is James and he needs extra help with his reading,” the boy says.) The spot—which is running at frequent intervals throughout the rest of the year—taps into the African-American mom’s desire to see her child “do good and have a positive impact on society,” said GlobalHue vp and group account director Detavio Samuels. Brandweek spoke with Samuels and the agency’s Vida Cornelious, vp-group creative director, and Ozioma Egwuonwu, vp-cultural strategy director, about the multicultural insights the agency leveraged in creating the ad. Excerpts from that conversation are below.

Brandweek: What was the agency’s task in creating this new ad?
Detavio Samuels:
The business objective was to strengthen the Walmart brand—and the National Urban League—as it’s a co-equity spot. What we know about African-Americans is that they respect and support (and are loyal to) companies that support and give back to their communities. Walmart has done a lot of things for the African-American community that people don’t necessarily know about, so [this ad] was about strengthening the brand.

BW: The spot shows a young African-American male reaching out to tutor a young child, James, only to discover his tutee is in fact an older man. What multicultural insights and marketing messages are you trying to convey?
Ozioma Egwuonwu
: We’re trying to communicate a couple of things. From a [big picture cultural context], we’re talking about how micro-support makes a difference . . . It’s the small acts that make a big difference in people’s lives. We saw that with the Haitian earthquake crisis, how small acts of support can impact people’s lives in a big way. From an African-American insights perspective, it speaks to the awakening of the awareness of their own personal power, not just within their own communities, but to help make other people’s lives better as well. That is portrayed in the dynamic [exchange] that you see with the young African-American boy and the older [Latino] gentleman. The spot is about understanding people’s desires to make a difference and how Walmart helps support that.

BW: What’s the thinking behind the ad?
Vida Cornelious:
Walmart always charges us to explore creative ways of storytelling, to find some emotional touch point that will resonate with the consumer in the ad. In the case of this spot, we wanted to show that this is an African-American kid who is of strong character and he rises to the occasion by going beyond what he’s asked to do [by tutoring an older, not younger consumer, as he’d originally thought]. It’s elevating him as a young man, and it also refers back to this notion of Walmart, with its brand promise, of helping [consumers] to live better. The [boy] in the spot is a conduit to helping someone else live [their life] better. There are some emotional and high touch points in the ad that let the consumer get engrossed in his personality and why he’s about to take on this task.

BW: What kind of consumer are you targeting with this spot?
The ideal target, at least from a business perspective, is mom. Walmart likes to speak to moms in its creative. You have this young African-American child stepping up to the occasion, and moms are very proud of their sons. She wants him to be successful, to do good and to have a positive impact on society. African-Americans are very big on community, and mom wants to see her kid vested in the community. This ad taps into that type of consumer mindset.