Nice try, Wal-Mart, but you're just not that cool

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Wal-Mart has launched a teen-oriented quasi-social-networking site called "The Hub" but plans to censor content, notify parents when kids join and forbid users to e-mail one another. Critics say Wal-Mart just isn't cool enough for the site to catch on with kids. And you seem to agree: An overwhelming 86% of voters in an Advertising Age online poll said Wal-Mart's attempt to seem cool to kids is anything but cool.

Many voters, such as Sara Barnes, account manager, Whitbeck Advertising, said the problem lies in the safety precautions. "Kids are rebellious by nature," she said. "Devising a website that is so highly restrictive just branded Wal-Mart as another 'parent.' Kids already think their parents are uncool."

But Robby Garfinkel, a creative director, said the problem is the strategy itself. "I don't think any brand has the cred to brand a social network," he said. And according to most voters, if any brand could do it, Wal-Mart just isn't it.

Peter Kohan, sales director, Sony BMG Custom Marketing Group, said Wal-Mart lacks the street cred, but the concept has merit. "Even if this initial effort fails, that does not mean the company won't learn from the effort and improve upon it as time goes on," he said.

Regardless of the brand's image, Wal-Mart is doing something no one else is: providing parents with a safe way for their kids to surf the net. "Wal-Mart's network is more aligned with parents' ideals, and therefore will gain a following," said Brian Ledoux, director of interactive ad operations, MRM Worldwide. "How large a following is the only question."

What you say: 86% of voters said Wal-Mart's efforts are misguided, and that the retail chain just isn't hip enough to lure teens to a censored site that mimics certain aspects of social-networking sites. But 14% believe that with all the concern about internet safety, Wal-Mart's sanitized site has a shot.
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