Posted on January 7, 2019
by Steve Janowick
Are you seriously kidding me?
I was watching Josh Gates explore something unknown while lapping up my Cocoa Puffs when the commercial came on. I saw the familiar logo and figured it would be your standard, run-of-the-mill ad about low prices and great selections during the holidays, but Walmart threw me a curveball. No, more like a split-finger, knuckle change in the dirt.
The whole spot was dedicated to highlighting a few employees and their random “good deeds.” Really? I literally couldn’t believe what I was watching. This was Walmart, man. One of the biggest, most soulless corporations on the globe, exploiting a couple underpaid/overworked workers just so they can jump on the new virtue band wagon that is barreling down Madison Avenue in 2018.
The optimist in me wanted to believe that Walmart was genuinely proud of these particular employees’ benevolence and compassion. I wanted to believe that their intentions were to spread a little positivity and good cheer during the holidays.
But the realist in me knew better.
I knew that Walmart was just following the lead of every other major brand out there today attempting to cash in on the division and divisiveness that seemed to magically manifest on November 8th of 2016. A divisiveness that, ironically, they all helped create and still vigorously perpetuate today.
But that obvious fact doesn’t matter, however. Because in 2019, feelings and emotions rule the day. It’s all about kindness and beauty. Feeling “good” about oneself. Feeling righteous. Feeling compassionate. See, we now have a tangible boogeyman to measure ourselves against. He lives on Pennsylvania Avenue and he is the malignancy in our benign utopia. He is the enemy. Simply put, he is mean…and we are nice.
And boy, these ad companies (and their clients) are exploiting this juxtaposition to the hilt. All of them. The stock, cookie-cutter, diverse characters. The ubiquitous, sad sap music. The serene, melancholy cinematography. All playing behind messages of goodwill and togetherness. And this one is for a car company for God sake! Forget telling us how the vehicle looks or runs. Or about its price or value. Who cares about that stuff? All that matters is that this company endorses “diversity” and this car represents “love”. They are on the RIGHT side of the fight. The good side. And if you buy any other car, you must be a bad person-like you know who.
It’s actually a brilliant marketing strategy. Pathetic and sad, but brilliant, nonetheless. Because there’s gullible sheep out there eating it up in droves, and their dollar equals a hundred pennies just like mine and yours. And isn’t the bottom line what’s it’s always really about?
It all sounds so cynical and dreary, I know. But unlike the bliss of ignorance, sometimes the burden of understanding and truth can be a real gut punch. So, I’m holding out that this whole advertising scam going on today is just a temporary trend. A fad. A novelty. Just like the cheesy “sex sells” of the 80’s, I’m hoping that “virtue sells” of today will suffer the same fate.
And maybe Walmart can get back to “little, yellow, rollback smiley-face” guy.
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