Tuesday, October 21

The Revolution Will Be Merchandised

In one of the more bizarre twists of the election season, Walmart has posted election videos from John McCain and Barack Obama on their corporate and e-commerce websites:


According to Walmart's press release, their intent is to:
Enable the candidates to introduce themselves to customers, club members and associates, detail their plans and positions on key issues, and will reflect the candidates' campaign platforms in a nonpartisan manner.

What is probably more motivating for the candidates is this Walmart declaration:

An August survey conducted by Voter/Consumer Research of Washington, D.C. showed that nearly half of undecided registered voters say they are more likely to shop at Wal-Mart today than they were six months ago.

Walmart.com currently ranks as the 250th most visited website in the US. Which practically makes it a mass media outlet on its own. Throw in their Sam's Club, corporate, and intranet sites, and the videos could reach a potential 15 million visitors over the next 2 weeks.

It is positioned as part of Walmart's voter registration initiative. I can't help feeling a little skeptical, considering they showcase their "Price Leadership Commercials" on the same page. I do give them credit for at least providing links to the other lesser-known third party candidates (Constitution party anyone?)

From a lobbying standpoint, Walmart will be able to publicize their site reports post-election and remind future candidates of their clout. The number of site visits, video views, and consumer comments about this initiative will no doubt demonstrate Walmart's influence and reach with the average American voter.

And don't forget about their in-store television network, which pumps branded content into 3,000 stores daily. That could be the next media outlet in 2012. It just went IPTV which allows advertisers to "better target shoppers by store, screen, day and time-of-day and change their messages more frequently." This gives Walmart the opportunity to promote, er I mean support, local elections as well.

Walmart is playing the neutral, non-partisan content distributor now. Let's hope they continue to follow that path in the future. Otherwise the Store Greeter might ask if you prefer cart or basket, paper or plastic, and Republican or Democrat.

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