Walmart Taps Agency Behind Bloomberg Gun-Control Effort

'Real Walmart' Campaign Shines Favorable Light on Retailer's Employees, Customers and Business Model

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Walmart's latest corporate image campaign draws on the same Florida-based agency that produced recent ads for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's national gun-control effort.

Walmart ad focuses on employee using education benefits to move up.
Walmart ad focuses on employee using education benefits to move up.

Palm City, Fla.-based Lighthouse Group, which created ads this winter and spring for Mr. Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns, was retained on a project basis for the new multi-million-dollar Walmart effort, said spokesman David Tovar. The campaign, including TV and digital ads along with the website TheRealWalmart.com, aims to shine a favorable light on the retailer's employees, customers and business model.

Walmart also happens to be the nation's largest gun seller, though its executives earlier this year appeared alongside Mr. Bloomberg in announcing new steps to prevent illegal gun sales and make it easier to track gun-related crimes. Those include retaining videos of Walmart gun purchases, keeping a database and alert system to prevent buyers whose guns are later used in crimes from buying guns at Walmart again, and enhancing background checks of employees who sell guns.

But the new campaign isn't about guns. It tackles other issues by portraying Walmart's business model, customers and associates as parts of "an American success story."

An ad focused on shoppers cites IRI data showing 60% of Americans shop at the retailer weekly as it shows a teacher, firefighter, accountant and mechanical engineer looking to save money to use on other things, such as college funds. They contrast with images at PeopleofWalmart.com, a site specifically crafted to highlight (and mock) the retailer's oddest shoppers, and are a bit more upscale than the retailer's average shopper (who has a $35,000 income, according to Walmart).

An ad focused on associates shows an employee using the retailer's education benefits in hopes of getting a job in management or information technology, while noting 75% of Walmart management started as hourly associates.

Another ad touting Walmart's business model focuses on how it lowers prices through distribution efficiency and dealing directly with local farmers and manufacturers rather than, as critics often contend, low wages, cheap foreign-made goods and strong-arm tactics.

"We are able to deliver low prices to our customers by operating efficiently and working closely with suppliers to obtain the best cost for the merchandise customers want," said Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon in a statement. "The more we introduce people to what we do and how we do it, the more they understand the positive difference we can make for customers, associates and communities."

Walmart had $730 million in measured media spending last year, according to Kantar Media.

Even before the campaign, some signs point to a rebound for Walmart's image of late. While the YouGov BrandIndex, a daily tracking survey, showed the retailer's image and purchase consideration slipping last year, more recent data show gains for the retailer among adults 35-49 and millennials 18-34.

For the former, purchase consideration rose from 48% in mid-January to 62% in early March before slipping slightly to 58% in late April. For millennials, those who said they'd consider purchasing at Walmart rose from 38% to 54% between January and April., while purchase consideration remained in the 54% to 57% among people age 50 or over, who didn't change their opinion of the retailer much one way or the other during the period.

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