Every night for the last week and half, I've gone home, made dinner, drawn the curtains, changed into warm socks and grabbed the TV clicker to watch whatever Olympic highlights NBC chooses to air.
The Olympics typically draws a viewing audience worthy of the “Olympic” name; but for the some 18 million people who tuned in to the opening ceremonies, it wasn't the bobsledding, figure skating or 36 other ways of sliding that got their attention. It was a 60-second commercial for Walmart.
During the opening ceremonies, Walmart debuted a television ad outlining its pledge to invest $250 billion toward American made products over the next ten years. The move is part of the retail giant's initiative to increase manufacturing jobs and supposedly stimulate America's sluggish economy. Sounds good, right?
On the surface, Walmart's television ad parallels every other cliché pro-workforce advertisement of the last half decade, using phrases like, “We will build things, and build families, and build dreams.” But it comes as little of a surprise that the company's getting flack from the viewing public, considering its business model to outsource jobs and purchase foreign products to sell at cheaper prices largely contributed to America's shrinking manufacturing sector in the first place.
Not to mention, Walmart wages are only high enough for its employees to... well, they're just high enough to shop at Walmart. So to see the company promoting American industry comes across as hypocritical at the least.
Adding insult to injury, the commercial has a voiceover contributed by Mike Row, host of the seven-season Discovery Channel television series, “Dirty Jobs.” Since the ad aired, Rowe has become a target of criticism for people who've become accustomed to him being a representative of the average “working Joe;” overworked and underpaid.
Understandably, there's a lot to be upset about when it comes to Walmart's latest PR push. The company's proposal to undo the consequences of its own making, for example; or Mike Rowe's advocation for one of the least popular corporations in the country. And did I mention, my cable bill keeps going up (which has nothing to do with this opinion piece, but sometime it feels good to complain just for the sake of complaining).
I understand the contention against Walmart, the behemoth of a corporation that swallowed the small business whole. I'm not a big fan the company either. That said, I think maybe – and I stress maybe – people are looking at Walmart's campaign the wrong way. The retailer's current business practices aside, it's still willing to invest quarter of a trillion dollars into American manufacturing which, by the transitive property of all things common sense, is a good for the American workforce. And what's good for the American workforce is good for everyone.
Say what you want about the company, that kind of investment is worthy of applause. After all, is there really anyone out there who's against pumping $250 back into the economy? I think if any company is willing to invest that kind of money into the economy, it should be welcome with open arms, not discontent and criticism.
As for the people who will undoubtedly continue to criticize Walmart (and Rowe for his endorsement), it's wise to remember that the consumer drives sales. Economics 101.