Friday, December 08, 2006

Culture Clash

I can't believe you people don't have a sushi bar herePotential bidders for the now open Wal-Mart account, take notes.

I know a bit about Northwest Arkansas, having spent a decade in neighboring Southwest Missouri. Julie Roehm must've considered Bentonville pure hell, the ultimate flyover country. A self-described "agent of change" and what many call "a rising star," Roehm brought her big city attitude and ideas to what is rightly considered the most backward part of the country. And they are proud of that backwardness. Nevermind that Sam Walton is dead, Wal-Mart people are still part of the surrounding culture. There is a Norman Rockwell streak that runs deep in the area. It is a place of barely concealed racism (they're learning, slowly), a place suspicious of outsiders and a place EXTREMELY resistant to change. Northwest Arkansas is a place and a people that look down on big city types and high-rolling con artists, just as big city types look down on small-town Arkansas. The good people of Bentonville thought they smelled a carpetbagging bullshit artist and got rid of her. Simple. End of story.

So when you're down in the Ozarks trying to grab a piece of that $600 million with your best dog and pony show, check your attitude at the door. And leave your sexy, politically correct campaign ideas back in the Big City. Wal-Mart is never going to be hip, sexy or viral. The winner of this account will take Wal-Mart back to the humble roots of Sam Walton and appeal to Wal-Mart's base, which Roehm helped alienate. That base is Bentonville, Norman Rockwell, Low Prices and Traditional Values. I know you hate that phrase, "traditional values." Tough. Learn it.

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  • I agree. I think this has more to do with it than people think. Qualifications aside.

    By Blogger Make the logo bigger, at December 8, 2006 at 7:39 PM  

  • Excellent piece JetPacks... There is no question, most BDA's don't get it... As I wrote in an AdWeek piece on December 20th... Many a time I've sweated over a $200 "working" dinner at Nobu whilst trying to come up with ads to sell $5 frozen pizza to a single mother of three living in an Arkansas trailer park... It's called living in a bubble. Jesus, I must be a prophet!!!

    By Anonymous George Parker, at December 9, 2006 at 1:17 PM  

  • I grew up with Wal-Mart, down in Arkansas, and you are so right about all of this. There's a reason the company spent years with an agency from KC, then added one based in Texas. Agency types not steeped in this way of life (i.e. "big city fellas" from Chicago or New York or LA) don't get it.

    No matter how huge and impressive Wal-Mart may be as a corporate entity, it's heart and soul remain firmly rooted in the ideals of 5 and Dime, small-town Americana.

    By Anonymous theo kie, at December 9, 2006 at 2:04 PM  

  • So what's our guess then? Ogilvy is about as slick as you can get. Martin Agency is from Richmond, but still very intellectual (e.g. Geico is brilliant, but maybe not to the Wal-Mart base.)

    Give it back to GSDM & the agency in KC?

    It's too bad in a way- Draft, with their pure DM and Chicago heritage would have been the perfect agency for Wal-Mart.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 9, 2006 at 2:23 PM  

  • I'm tellin ya', hire Crispin.


    By Blogger Make the logo bigger, at December 9, 2006 at 7:01 PM  

  • As long as it's Crispin + Glover.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at December 9, 2006 at 8:05 PM  

  • I can think of worse things to stand for than providing value and avoiding bullshit. I know it doesn't seem too exciting until you look around check the global supply of both bullshit and value. I don't follow Wal-Mart that closely, but somehow I thought their issues were more in the PR and corporate policy spheres than advertising. Advertising for them should be simple, I'd think.

    By Anonymous captain flummox, at December 10, 2006 at 6:13 PM  

  • All in favor of "in-house" say Aye.

    By Blogger James-H, at December 11, 2006 at 9:36 PM  

  • Aye Aye.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at December 13, 2006 at 12:02 PM  

  • they're so fucking big they should start their own ad agency

    By Blogger Matt, at December 18, 2006 at 11:36 AM  

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