The last days of Wal-Mart’s smiley face

Unless DraftFCB can find a way to make Wal-Mart’s smiley face seem tragically hip, there’s a good chance that the symbol of falling prices may vanish from the aisles of smiles. In an effort to elevate its image from its cinderblock foundations, Wal-Mart has already removed Smiley from its employees’ attire and from its redesigned Web site. Once Wal-Mart’s new ad agency begins working the account, Smiley may retire to the backroom, according to recent speculation. It would be a sad denouement for the symbol of cheapness, for which Wal-Mart fought a trademark battle earlier this year. Indeed, the issue of Smiley’s parentage is one of advertising’s longest-running disputes. The maniacal image has been traced back to 1953 in a New York Herald Tribune ad for the Leslie Caron movie Lili. More recently, the company SmileyWorld laid claim to the image, forcing the recent confrontation with the world’s largest retailer. SmileyWorld founder Nicholas Loufrani, of all things a Frenchman, claims his father invented the image in 1968.  Smiley was an attention getter, Loufrani told Forbes, “because French people are never happy.