Wal-Mart's New Online Children's 'Hub' a Real Bomb

A Poorly Executed Project With Writing That Makes Us Cringe

By Published on . 16

A correction has been made in this column. See details below.
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You think this job is easy?

Walk a mile in AdReview's shoes. Try to find something different to say week after week for 20 years. Try to be simultaneously serious and entertaining. Try to keep a level head. Try not to damage any careers along the way.
Is there anything more excruciating than some lametard adult copywriter trying to speak to teenagers in their own language? To see this stuff is to cringe. | ALSO: Comment on this review in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
Is there anything more excruciating than some lametard adult copywriter trying to speak to teenagers in their own language? To see this stuff is to cringe. | ALSO: Comment on this review in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

Not in the bull's-eye
Oh, and if you happen to be an incredibly macho and worldly 51-year-old man, try putting yourself into the head of the many demographic target cohorts to which we, strictly speaking, do not belong. Not only are we not in the bull's-eye -- 18 to 34 years-old -- we're also not a skateboarder/gamer, a soccer mom or, to the best of our knowledge, Japanese.

But depending on the ad at hand, we have to play one in front of the TV.

This week it's teenage and preadolescent girls and boys. And, we're like, that is soooo gay. This is totally the hardest thing ever.

Two thoughts
And not just for us, it seems. It's also apparently so the hardest thing ever for Wal-Mart, which has created a website that aims to create a dialogue with precisely that audience. We have two thoughts on the subject:

1.) It's a perfectly reasonable idea. If well-executed, such an effort might cultivate individual users, gather market intelligence on the group, destigmatize Wal-Mart as a declasse purveyor of unfashionable clothing and establish a beachhead on the web for the fast-approaching digital future.

2.) It's not well executed.

In fact, it's totally not well-executed. It's the most not-well-executed ever. The site -- schoolyourway.walmart.com -- is called The Hub. It's a hybrid of an ordinary webpage and a social-networking engine ... a la MySpace.com. Little Tyler and Kayla can customize their own pages to declare their own styles and see what Justin and Madison are up to, too. Here's a sample:
Engage Garfield directly in his new blog.
Engage Garfield directly in his new blog.

Shopping will be my number ONE hobby this fall. I am going to be the most fashionable teen at school! I'll be on the lookout for the latest fashions. From leggings to layers, to boots and flats, big belts and headbands! I'll be looking for it all! Layering is SO IN right now. Hobo bags are also in style. OH! And big sunglasses! WHOO!! I don't know where to stop! With all of the new clothes I'll be getting, the kids at school will be begging me for fashion tips!

Yeah. Sure they will.

Excruciatingly bad
Dude, is there anything more excruciating than some lametard adult trying to speak to teenagers in their own language? To see this stuff is to cringe, and to wonder -- if we're cringing -- what are actual children doing? Once again, we are handicapped by our age and staggering sophistication, but "snorting and laughing" is our best guess.

We have put ourselves in the head of the target audience, and we want to get out fast.

Furthermore, though The Hub looks like a social-networking site, it heavily restricts content and does not permit any actual social networking. You can't expect a chain that bans racy books, magazines and albums to let a free-for-all take place on its servers. But mimicking MySpace and delivering oursandoursalonepsace is just asking for derision.

In the FAQ section of The Hub, one of the supposedly frequent questions is "WHO'S BEHIND THIS GENIUS WEB DESTINATION?"

Whoo! In an attempt to damage nobody's career, we will not tell you the answer.

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Review: one star
Ad: Wal-Mart
Agencies: GSD&M, Austin, Texas; Tribal DDB, Dallas; and @RadicalMedia, New York

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CORRECTION:The original version of this story said that the young actors appearing in Wal-Mart's website had ghostwriters. In fact, the children came up with their own lines.

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