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Walmart Pitchman Mike Rowe Takes on Unpaid Work Defending Retailer on Facebook

Voiceover by 'Dirty Jobs' Host Spurs 3,900 Comments on His Facebook Page

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Mike Rowe, host of the former Discovery Channel "Dirty Jobs" series and narrator for a new TV and online spot about Walmart's commitment to hike spending on U.S.-manufactured products, has volunteered for added duties defending the giant retailer against critics on Facebook.

After critics in social media began questioning the impact of Walmart's move, Mr. Rowe posted a 2,648-word response on his personal page, reported by TheBlaze. It includes the retort to one: "Honestly Kevin, who gives a crap about your feelings toward Walmart? Who gives a crap about mine? Isn't this the kind of initiative we can all get behind?"

"Dozens of American factories are going to reopen all over the country," Mr. Rowe added. "Millions of dollars will pour straight into local economies, and hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing positions will need to be filled."

To another critic who claimed all Walmart products are made in China, Mr. Rowe said: "There's a lot of merchandise currently in Walmart that's manufactured right here in the USA - (including Dirty Jobs Cleaning Products.)"

Mr. Rowe has been pitchman for everything from Ford automobiles to Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Viva paper towels, but his ad work has never gotten this much debate before, even though his face doesn't appear in the ad. As of Feb. 12, discussion of Mr. Rowe's Walmart ad had drawn more than 3,900 comments in a spirited debate largely focused on Walmart's labor practices, with a generous mix of positive and negative outlooks on the retailer.

Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan noted that Mr. Rowe is speaking for himself on Facebook. "He is his own man," she said. But she also said: "We're a proud partner of Mike's on multiple projects and this one in particular."

The "importance of the working American and need to increase and help bring back American manufacturing" is has been an issue "on top of his mind for a while," she said.

The ad featuring Mr. Rowe's narration, which broke during the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics on NBC Feb. 7, is the first of two that will air on TV and one of several online on the subject, Ms. Buchanan said. While Walmart has promoted its 13-month-old initiative to buy more U.S.-made goods and increase the nation's manufacturing through PR events such as a manufacturing summit last summer and online videos last year, buying TV time is an expansion of the effort.

Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon in a presentation last month said the retailer will buy an additional $250 billion in U.S.-made goods over 10 years, including $50 billion in the 10th year. Ms. Buchanan said the retailer, which had U.S. sales of $274.5 billion last year, expects a "hockey-stick" style upswing in purchases of U.S.-made goods toward the end of that period as a variety of factors predicted by Boston Consulting Group, including rising costs overseas and declining costs of energy in the U.S., tip the economics of production in favor of the U.S. in years ahead.

The corporate image ads, including those for Mr. Rowe, are from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and come after Andy Murray, former CEO of the agency's Saatchi & Saatchi X shopper-marketing unit, became Walmart's senior VP-creative last summer. Interpublic's Martin Agency remains Walmart's agency of record. Ms. Buchanan said Saatchi did the work on a project basis.

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