Mean Ol' Wal-Mart Ads Win an Award

What NAD Calls Misleading, ARF Calls Genius

By Published on .

Perhaps only in the ad industry can an advertiser have its wrist slapped for making misleading ads one day by one industry group and be lauded for the effectiveness of those ads by another the next.

Wal-Mart won a David Ogilvy award for research excellence from the Advertising Research Foundation Tuesday night as the best example of research behind a brand re-positioning for the past year in its "Save Money. Live Better" campaign.

That came a day after the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus found the initial salvo of said campaign misled consumers by implying families can save $2,500 a year by shopping at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart never said that, exactly (depending on how one parses a statement made by Leslie Dach, the company's exec VP-corporate affairs, in an October investor conference). Technically, Wal-Mart only cited results of an economic study that showed its mere existence saves families $2,500, regardless of whether they shop there, and let the media and consumers draw their own conclusions.

Anyway, Wal-Mart has discontinued that claim in most ads and modified it on its website. And technically the ARF award is for the research that went into the campaign, not any specific claim coming out the other end of ads created at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va. And the ARF judges made their ruling before the NAD made its ruling, though well after Ad Age noted the controversy.

An ARF spokesman said the judges didn't supply any written rationale for Wal-Mart's award and that the organization doesn't necessarily endorse their decision or the specific $2,500 claim in question. "It's a like a movie," he said. "You can get praised by one critic and panned by another."

Of course, the ARF award wasn't enough to make Wal-Mart's other PR problem from this week disappear. (Link)
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