WalMart & Sam's Club On The Radio

Laurence Glavin
Fri Jul 2 11:33:21 EDT 2004

On several occasions, Bob Bittner has mentioned that WalMart avoids
radio advertising almost entirely.  Its advertising consists of
mailings with sale items that include photos of everday people
rather than the models you see in advertising for other retailers.
It runs a fair amount of TV advertising, usually nothing more
than the Zorro-costumed smiley face "slashing" prices.
In a way, it says something that the most "successful" company
in America uses such unimaginative, and frankly low-grade advertising,
devoid of everything that advertising agencies claim you need to
stand out in the media clutter.  But Wal/Mart up to now it seemed
to regard radio as not even worth considering.  Of course this has hurt
small-market radio, because big-box superstores on the outskirts of
small cities can cause the closure of downtown business that are
seen as the bread-and-butter of small, standalone stations, or some
people claim.  Well now, WalMart appears to have had a change of heart
(if one can claim WalMart HAS a heart)...but not in a way one
would expect.  First, they began airing underwriting messages on 
NPR the network and some NPR stations.  This has resulted in
complaints to NPR itself by some listeners.  NPR claims no
underwriter influences its programming, and there was
evidence of that last weekend, when "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me"
made fun of the class action suit again Walmart early in the
program, then later read the underwriting message.  The 
underwriting messages on NPR do not promote the stores as a
place to buy good stuff cheap, but try to convey the
message that WalMart is a good neighbor and employer.  This
message has also been a part of a few spots for the
company on commercial radio, but I've only heard one
or two of those.   But, WalMart's clone, Sam's Club HAS been
running conventional spots that I've heard on several
occasions on WBZ and WRKO.  These are commercials that
promote Sam's Clubs as a place for small businesses to
buy supplies, in effect competing with Staples and other
big box office supply stores.  A shift in the WalMart
Corporation's attitude towards radio is unlikely to 
help the WCAP's or WJDA's of the I mentioned,
I've only heard them on 50KW big-market stations.  But it's
possible that once again, the executives at WalMart jumped
on an opportunity, the radio advertising slump due to 
"commoditization of inventory", and moved in a new direction
for them.

Laurence Glavin
Metheuen, MA (where we have a rare small-box WalMart)
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