In what is a just-bananas-enough-to-believe publicity grab, Walmart will capitalize (intentionally or not) on the #MeToo and generally pro-women national mood by airing three 60-second films “devised” by directors Melissa McCarthy, Dee Rees, and Nancy Meyers during this year’s Academy Awards broadcast.
The ads will all feature one of the chain’s iconic (are they?) blue shipping boxes, with where it travels to and what it contains up to each director. As part of the campaign, Walmart will collaborate with Women in Film Los Angeles to pair four aspiring women filmmakers with the directors as they make their ads.
This year’s stunt is a follow-up to 2017's Oscar campaign, when the corporate giant aired short films directed by a group of men—Marc Forster, Antoine Fuqua, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg—all chosen for their “unique perspectives that would result in really interesting and diverse storytelling.” The company was roundly criticized for failing to include even the whiff of a woman.
But Walmart execs deny that this blatant attempt to atone for last year’s screw up while participating in the national moment is anything like that. “We are aware of the conversation going on, but we are looking to be integrated authentically into the show,” Kristen Evans, Walmart’s senior VP of marketing, told Variety. “Being a part of a really entertaining night is the sole purpose of what we were trying to accomplish.” They do concede, however, that it’s part of the brand’s attempt to get consumers to see it in a new light.
“We haven’t always been front and center in these types of events,” [the company’s chief marketing officer Tony Rogers] acknoweledged. “We are trying to change that. We like the idea of Walmart as a brand being part of the public discourse and the public conversation.” ...
The commercials, the executives said, are meant to get a big audience of consumers to think about Walmart in a different way, and not necessarily aimed at getting them to run to a store immediately upon seeing the cinematic ads.
It’s a sweet, convenient thought—that three 60-second advertisements will distract the public from Walmart’s legacy of abysmal labor practices. That paying Nancy Meyers (a rep declined to confirm the exact figure to Jezebel) will eclipse that it took until two weeks ago for the nation’s largest private employer and largest corporate taxpayer to bump its minimum wage from $9 to $11. They also just improved their parental leave plan before closing 63 of its Sam’s Clubs stores with little-to-no warning to the stores’ employees.
There’s more: Walmart has been accused of penalizing employees for taking sick days, including for miscarriages and pregnancies, for refusing to accept doctors notes, and for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act; in May 2017, a customer found a note recounting allegations of forced labor in China; in November, seven women sued the corporation for pay discrimination; in 2012 and 2015 it has been fined and sued for denying workers overtime; a group of US senators have accused it of abusive trucking practices; in 2001, it was sued for sexual discrimination; in 1995, it pulled a t-shirt that said, “Someday a woman will be PRESIDENT!” for being too offensive.
Good for Walmart for championing four burgeoning women filmmakers; next step, their own employees!