Wal-Mart Uses Nazi Imagery In Ad. Not A Good Move.

Wal-Mart has a long history of using Political Action Committees and funding pseudo-grassroots groups to influence public opinion when the company wants to change zoning laws or put a new store in a neighborhood that may oppose it.
But this ad in the Arizona Daily Sun obviously went too far:
Wal-Mart Nazi Ad.jpg
Wal-Mart opposes Proposition 100 in Flagstaff, which would put restrictions on big-box stores. So Wal-Mart paid a group $280,000 to create ads like this one, which uses a Nazi-era book burning image to suggest that if you oppose government book-burning, you should also oppose government zoning laws. The photo that’s used is available for purchase as a stock photo and if you look closely enough, you can see swastikas.
Wal-Mart, of course, is now apologizing. Here’s the story from The Arizona Daily Sun and The Los Angeles Times. The Wal-Mart funded group in Flagstaff is called Protect Flagstaff’s Future. For the opposition side, see YesOnProp100.com (largely funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union) and Wal-Mart Watch, a national group.
I actually think companies should be completely free to use ads like these for issue advocacy and to promote their values. Because it exposes their explicit and implicit agendas and allows the consumer to decide. Wal-Mart recently has been trying to counter negative press with a PR effort pushing a shiny happy image. But as long as ads like these are in full view to the public, both sides of the issue can be seen.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.