Wal-Mart gets funny for the holidays

After over eight years of ads featuring real customers and sales associates, Mississauga, Ont.-based Wal-Mart Canada is trying something new: TV spots with actors. The holiday ads are the first of a series sporting the tagline: 'Life can be pricey. Wal-Mart isn't.'

After over eight years of ads featuring real customers and sales associates, Mississauga, Ont.-based Wal-Mart Canada is trying something new: TV spots with actors. The holiday ads are the first of a series sporting the tagline: ‘Life can be pricey. Wal-Mart isn’t.’

A late-summer spot using the tagline ‘tested exceptionally well,’ says Wal-Mart Canada spokesperson Kevin Groh. ‘We’re proud of the years of real life stories, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show some flexibility and go after a deeper brand idea. Every one highlights one of life’s challenges resolved in a Wal-Mart, so from a branding perspective it makes great sense for us.’

Created by the retailer’s AOR for English Canada, Toronto-based Publicis, the English-language campaign consists of three TV spots, each focusing on a specific retail area: toys, home décor and electronics. The first, ‘Buried Gift,’ ran in November and featured a jealous dog burying a toy dog in the snow. The second, ‘Unexpected Guests,’ which wraps the first week of December, plays on the faux pas of a friend who comes for a visit, failing to mention he’ll be bringing along his girlfriend and her three kids. In the third, which runs for two weeks starting Dec. 3, a father unwittingly gives his son’s gift, an iPod, to a lucky ‘Newspaper Boy.’

The campaign also includes online support focusing on the electronics business that runs for seven weeks, to Dec. 24.

Montreal-based Allard Johnson Communications has created three unique French-language spots that also use humour to promote the same retail departments, the last of which began airing on Nov. 12.

‘All three are timely for the holidays, and are areas where we’ve made a lot of investment and improvement,’ says Groh.

Duncan Bruce, VP/ECD at Publicis Canada’s Toronto office, said the insight for the new format came out of a global Wal-Mart directive (similar ads are running in the U.S. with the tagline ‘Save Money. Live better.’).

‘Allowing us to write a script and create a moment made it much more focused,’ he said.

Rumours of a Wal-Mart agency review were not confirmed at press time.

client: Mike Dombrow, director of marketing; Toni Fanson, director of advertising, Wal-Mart Canada

agency (English): Publicis Canada

ECD: Duncan Bruce

AD: Gary Holme

writer: Pat Pirisi

brand director: Gord Muirhead

account supervisor: Elle Lytle

production house: Avion Films

director: Tim Hamilton

executive producer: Paola Lazzeri

producer: Marilyn Kastelic

agency (French): Allard Johnson Communications