Dubious Claim Du Jour

Eat more food to become skinny.
Or, shop Wal-Mart and save your family $2500 annually. It’s a claim the Arkansas-based retailer has been making in its ads.
According to The New York Times the claim dates to 2005, when Wal-Mart, under mounting criticism from unions and elected leaders over its business practices, commissioned a study of its economic impact on Americans.
An outside firm, paid by Wal-Mart, found that the company’s emphasis on low prices led to a 3 percent decline in overall consumer prices. That translated into $287 billion in savings in 2006, or $2,500 a household, whether a family shops at Wal-Mart or a competitor.
Sadly, fuzzy math is becoming standard practice in business today. Where Wal-Mart went wrong, is using this favorable, but suspect, data for the basis of an ad campaign that specifically tells shoppers they’ll be able to buy a used car or take that long dreamed about vacation, when they choose to shop Wal-Mart.
The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus says, “the advertiser provided no support (for the claim) and, in fact, conceded that there was none.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Stretching the truth, or suggesting by implication connections that aren’t explicitly true, is nothing new in advertising, is it? What’s stunning to me about Wal-Mart’s latest troubles is that it chose to use its $2,500 stat in the first place; there’s a terribly negative context to it, should any consumer think about it for a moment. Why ever would the company have elected to go there in the first place makes no sense to me. Anyway, I’ve blogged at bit about it today at DIM BULB if you’d like to check it out: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/04/wal-mart-lied.html