Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wal-Marts unethical marketing to children

Photo source

Wal-Mart is, of course not the only corporation involved in unethical marketing to children but it is the leading retailer involved, as far as I can tell, and they have conducted some of the least ethical methods among retailers; and this has led other corporations to increase their marketing strategies to keep up. They have also been acting with toy manufacturers as well to promote many of these methods as much as they can get away with.

This has led to a race to the bottom.

The only exceptions have been when enough parents and non-governmental organizations representing the best interest of children create a big enough uproar to convince them to scale back their tactics.

There have been numerous discussions about how to make adverting more ethical and most of them focus on whether certain relatively minor aspects of advertising are ethical or not. In many cases these aspects seem extreme but they pale in comparison to the basics of adverting and a quick review of that should indicate that most if not all adverting that is done is unethical under the current circumstances.

The objective of adverting isn't to give customers the most accurate information they need to make important decisions; it is to present them with information that is designed to benefit the person or corporations paying for the ads and enable them to increase their profits by presenting a misleading perception of the truth.

By controlling the informaiton the consumer receives they try to control the decisions the consumer makes; then since this is a business expense if they're successful one way or another the cost of these ads have to be passed on to the consumers.

Unless advertising is kept to a minimum and there is a fair amount of fact checking involved then all advertising is unethical. It's like lying to people and billing them for their lies.

Unfortunately the elected officials that are supposed to protect children and represent the majority of the public have done little or nothing to help convince corporations to scale back unethical tactics.

That doesn’t mean they’ve been completely inactive on the subject though. They’ve passed laws that make the research conducted by marketing companies proprietary; which essentially means that when they conduct research into the psychological manipulation of children through their marketing methods that research is secret so it is illegal for insiders with access to this information to inform parents about the methods that are being used to manipulate their children.

That’s right instead of making the psychological research into manipulating children illegal or at least passing disclosure laws so that the public would be able to review it for unethical behavior they make it a trade secret so that parents have a much more difficult time finding out how corporations have been trying to manipulate their children. I wish I was making this up but it has been reported by several reliable sources including Juliet Schor author of “Born to Buy.“

Fortunately they haven't been able to keep their marketing tactics completely secret though; in fact there is an enormous amount of research exposing it and they even make some of their tactics public regardless of their trade secrecy laws. The problem is that the misleading advertising gets much more attention and the positive research is presented to a much smaller percentage of the public. This is a typical propaganda tactic; a lot of it doesn't fit the strictest definition of a conspiracy since the tactics they use aren't completely secret but most people don't hear enough about it to understand it and act on it so it often does a better job accomplishing the goals the corporations are pursuing. The good thing about this is that since the information is public it can be distributed at the grass roots level and if enough people recognize the commercial media and information from corporations like Wal-Mart for the propaganda that it is they will look more to alternative outlets that provide much better information.

One simple way to recognize how bad excessive advertising is for children or the rest of society is to simply acknowledge the fact that advertising does absolutely nothing to improve the quality of the product they're promoting; yet the amount of money being spent on advertising is rising much faster than the amount of money being spent on manufacturing or services that actually do improve the quality of life for consumers. This isn't just true about advertising it is also true about many other corporate activities including lobbying, campaign contributions, shipping, including the shipping of many products that are very low quality or even broken so it just gets shipped half way across the world before being thrown away, and many other things that aren't even disclosed due to proprietary information laws. All these expenses have to be passed on to consumers; if they weren't there would be no way they would be making so much profit which would give them incentive to cut the waste.

The exact numbers on how much these expenses have been rising is hard to recognize since it isn't reported to the public in nearly as efficient a manner as it could or should be but there is an enormous amount of evidence to indicate the the cost of waste that is designed primarily to increase profit for a small but powerful minority without benefiting the majority of the public is sky rocketing while the amount of money being invested in activities that benefit the public are stagnating or being cut. this is the result of centralized corporate control of the economy and the government.

The following is a sample of the most unethical tactics that Wal-Mart has been using; it is clearly a follow up on the "Nag Factor" which was a study done in the nineties to see how nagging children effect parents buying decisions and how marketers could encourage this nagging.

Six strategies marketers use to get kids to want stuff bad By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY 11/22/2006

Every year at this time, visions of sugar plum profits dance through the heads of toymakers and retailers.

Many take aim at the most susceptible target: kids.

Almost half of all kid-targeted toys, games and gadgets sold this year will be bought in the final quarter. Kids through age 14 will influence $160 billion in spending in November and December, says James McNeal, author of "The Kids Market: Myths and Realities."

That leaves marketers little time to make a Santa-size impression.

Meanwhile, slipping toy sales have raised the stakes. Last year, sales dipped 2% to $21.9 billion, reports market researcher NPD Group. Some categories went down like a kid on a slide: plush toys by 14%, board games by 8%.

What's a toymaker to do? Advertise like mad.

Last year, marketers spent $1.4 billion per month marketing to children — 15% more than the year before, McNeal says. "I call it 'surround selling.' "

Mattel Brands President Neil Friedman says Mattel will spend half its ad budget — estimated at $460 million by Advertising Age — in the fourth quarter.

Hasbro won't divulge its ad plans, but it is ramping up TV spots for hot toys such as its $299 life-size, interactive miniature pony — Butterscotch My FurReal Friends Pony. When making and placing ads, however, Chief Operating Officer Brian Goldner says, "We apply judgment as parents, not just as business people."

Critics don't buy that. The annual ad onslaught drives some crazy.

"It's greed," says Raffi Cavoukian, the kid-music singer turned child advocate, and founder of The Centre for Child Honouring, intent on protecting kids from commercialism. "These companies want to turn America's kids into sales agents to nag Mom and Dad."

In the next few weeks, marketers will try to nudge, prod and cajole kids into buying their stuff. Some techniques that have worked for years are still effective — particularly, repetitive ads on kids shows. Among new ideas in 2006: a Wal-Mart website for toy picking that critics have panned for putting kids in control of e-mailed wish lists.

Holiday hype has reached a point where parents need a tip sheet to know what to watch for to shield their kids — if not themselves.

Here it is: A list of six of the most effective techniques marketers are using this season to snatch the attention of youngsters.

1. Techie wish lists

Erin Willett wants Wal-Mart to kill its toy wish list website.

The mother of 4-year-old Carter and 1-year-old Nolan, recently wrote Wal-Mart's CEO that she'll do her shopping at Target until Wal-Mart dumps the site.

The site,, features two elves who nudge kids to select toys by clicking on the word YES when a toy appears on the screen. Applause is played when YES is selected. But it's silent if NO is selected. "If you show us what you want on your wish list, we'll send it straight off to your parents," promises one elf.

Several consumer groups have asked Wal-Mart to close the site. "Wal-Mart is encouraging kids to nag for toys," says Susan Linn, co-founder of Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood.

"This site is the lowest of the low," says Gary Ruskin, founder of consumer group Commercial Alert, and author of "Tricks of the Trade: Selling to Children," first published in Mothering Magazine 1999.

The site "helps create a culture of nagging," says Diane Levin, co-founder of Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment.

Even readers of ad industry trade journal Advertising Age find the site troubling. In a poll, 52% agreed that Wal-Mart "goes too far with its holiday website."

Wal-Mart says the site is a modern twist on an old tradition. "Making a Christmas wish list and sharing it with parents is a tradition that goes back as long as Santa," spokeswoman Jolanda Stewart says.

But some toys aren't on the site by accident. Some involve financial "sponsorships," says Stewart, though she declined to be specific. As for consumer complaints, she says, "We haven't received a significant number." Complete article

Susan Linn exposed this tactic at least two years prior to the time this article was published in her book "Consuming Kids" as indicated in the following excerpt.

In the grand scheme of things, playing with food against a parent’s wishes seems like a small transgression. In and of itself, it is, though that’s not the point. By targeting children with ads designed to entice them to play with food, marketers are willfully encouraging children to do something that they acknowledge is contrary to most parents’ expectations and values. In fact, the marketing industry purposely comes between children and parents in many instances, potentially wreaking all sorts of havoc in family life. One of the most egregious examples of evidence that they do this comes from a 1998 study on nagging. Conducted not to help parents prevent nagging but rather to help retailers exploit nagging to boost sales, the study, called "The Nag Factor," was conducted by Western Media International (now Initiative Media Worldwide) and Lieberman Research Worldwide.

According to a press release from Western Media International headlined "The Fine Art of Whining: Why Nagging Is a Kid's Best Friend," the study identifies which kinds of parents are most likely to give in to nagging. Not surprisingly, divorced parents and those with teenagers or very young children ranked highest. The study identifies some things children often nag for, estimating for each how often nagging was successful: in four out of ten trips to "entertainment establishments like the Discovery Zone and Chuck E. Cheese," in one out of every three trips to a fast-food restaurant, and in three out of every ten home video sales.

Since research conducted by marketing companies is proprietary, which means that researchers' methods are not usually made available to the public, these firms sell their reports for a great deal of money. I don't know how much the Nag Factor study sold for, but in 2003, for instance, a publication called The U.S. Market for Infant, Toddler and Preschool Products: Vols. 1–3, second edition, cost $6,000.

Perhaps because it found that "the impact of children's nagging is assessed as up to 46 percent of sales in key business that target children," the Nag Factor study attracted a great deal of attention in the marketing world, and several publications described the study and how it was conducted in various amounts of detail. In a story headlined "The Old Nagging Game Can Pay Off for Marketers," Selling to Kids (a marketing newsletter, not an advocacy group) reported that in the study, researchers asked 150 mothers of children aged three to eight to keep a diary recording their kids' purchase requests over a period of two weeks. The moms reported a total of 10,000 nags—an average of about 66 nags per mother, or about 4.7 nags per day. The study identified two different kinds of nagging. The first was "persistence nagging," or repeated requests for a product. The second was "importance nagging," when kids gave a reason for why they wanted a product. To use the example cited by Western Media executives: "Mommy, I need the Barbie Dreamhouse so Barbie and Ken can live together and have children and have their own family."

The persistence with which children nag seems to increase as they get older. A recent survey of 750 kids between the ages of twelve and seventeen produced the finding that, on average, they may ask nine times before their parents give in and let them have what they want. Nagging seems to peak in early adolescence. Of the twelve- and thirteen-year-olds surveyed, 11 percent reported nagging parents more than fifty times for one specific product or another -- and all of these were products they had seen advertised. (Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.31-5)

Whether it is Wal-Mart marketing to kids or any other corporations they routinely try to manipulate the insecurities and vulnerabilities of children starting at a very young age which dramatically increases their insecurities and vulnerabilities or prevents them from eliminating them in many cases, as Susan Linn indicated as well in the following excerpt.

None of the articles quotes earlier questions the ethics, let alone the psychological impact, of inundating teens and preteens with images and messages designed to foster insecurity as the primary motivation for action, nor do most of the hundreds of articles and books I’ve read in the course of my research. It seems that no one in the advertising industry, whatever their private concerns might be, publicly questions either the ethics or the effects of marketing messages that play’s to a child’s vulnerabilities. In fact, for years most marketers have maintained that public concern about the impact of marketing on children is overblown. In a 1997 article in Business Week, tom Kalinske, former chief executive officer of Sega of America and Mattel, Inc., said, “I have a high regard for the intelligence of kids.” The article went on to explain that “Kalinske and others in the industry believe that kids today are more sophisticated consumers than the generations that preceded them, well able to recognize hype and impervious to crude manipulation.” Mr. Kurnit expanded on this point of view in KidScreen, explaining that “It’s a point of fact that today’s child is more savvy than ever before about what it’s like to live in a commercial society…and what parents are telling us is that kids are requesting brands and are brand-aware almost as soon as their verbal skills set in.”

By championing children’s “intelligence” and “sophistication” as a rationale for the escalating onslaught of child-targeted commercials, marketing experts reveal that their love affair with psychology is as superficial and deceptive as the ads they create. (Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.26-7)

These marketers often claim that they're championing children’s “intelligence” and “sophistication,” which sounds good if you don't think it through but when you consider their motives this belief quickly falls apart; their objective is to increase profit as much as possible; they do this by convincing people to pay more for products even if they don't get more value. If they succeed at this then they're only flattering the children’s “intelligence” and “sophistication” when they happen to make choices that advance the goals of the marketers even though they're not recognizing the fact that they're being manipulated. If on the other hand children really are as intelligent or sophisticated as the marketers claim, and many of them are, then they don't fall for the marketing tactics and the money the marketing people spend is a complete waste. So either way the consumers don't receive benefits from the money that marketers spend but the cost is passed on to them any way when they buy products because a small percentage of the corporations now control the economy so they can use their market power to pass on these expenses to consumers whether they fall for their deceptive ads or not. Those that don't fall for these scams don't buy as much wasteful products but they still buy necessities; and the fact that an enormous amount of these wasteful items are being sold overwhelmingly indicates that many of these children are being manipulated by these ads.

This use of flattery seems to be common in some of the marketing studies that they are willing to make public as indicated in the following article by a consulting firm that seems to act as if the marketing to children is a desirable thing for the goals of their firm and clients.

This handbook is about winning. It’s about finishing ahead of the competition in whatever category you pursue for whichever youth audience you choose. It’s about what it takes to create and maximize a winning product or program for kids, tweens and teens.

What is the magic of evergreen properties and brands like Barbie or Barney or Nike or Nick? What are the ingredients that add up to grossing a billion dollars or more a year?

Or on a smaller scale, how can you create a logo design, a package, a website, a game, an advertisement, a healthy and appealing snack item, a new type of social program – any offering to young people that maximizes their attraction and involvement?

More than 80% of new products targeting young people and their families either fail or fall below expectations. With change happening so fast the explosion of this expensive statistic is exponential. In the Grocery industry, for example, there are approximately 5,000 new product introductions every year. About 1 million dollars per store is spent to introduce and promote these products. And about 80% of them fail or fall below expectations. They don’t survive on the shelf.

What about the innumerable programs designed to enrich young people’s lives – scouting and related programs, summer activities, youth sports, church-sponsored programs and many others? And now with the tech revolution, kids, tweens and teens are participating in droves in web-based “programs” that involve social interaction. What are the ingredients that need to go into these programs to maximize young people’s involvement and ensure success? In order to distinguish these types of programs from TV, film, and computer-gaming programs, we’ll refer to youth activities and organizations and some web-based social interaction programs/sites as “Social Programs”. .....

The most important fundamental to understand is the stage of development of the child, tween or teen. For in-depth detail related to each of these stages, the author’s first book: What Kids Buy and Why–The Psychology of Marketing to Kids is recommended. In it you will find a chapter on each stage.

 Complete article

They open up by saying that "This handbook is about winning," which seems credible enough and this clearly seems to mean that they win by finding successful ways to market their products and increase their profits. then they quickly go on to say that they're marketing "a healthy and appealing snack item, a new type of social program" or other items which are phrased in a positive manner; however these claims rarely hold up to scrutiny. This is one of the reasons for the epidemic of obesity in this country and many of the things that are often marketed to children include violent video games. The items they market to children are far more likely to do more to increase profits for corporations than they are to serve the best interest of children.

They openly acknowledge the fact that they're trying to influence children from the moment they're born if possible. This is becoming increasingly more common due to the fact that many parents have less time to spend with their children so children rely more on media and they are also less likely to use many of the simpler toys that many of us grew up with that often didn't cost much if any money.

In fact many of the major retailers, including Wal-Mart, are using their marketing power to promote toys that may be unhealthy while declining to even stock toys that might be much more healthy for the development of children but don't bring as much profit. This should be considered a major violation of anti-trust laws which may have been watered down so much as a result of deregulation or funds to investigate them may have been cut so that corporations can get away with it. The claim that is used to justify the current economic system is that if corporations compete against each other they will provide the products that consumers demand and drop the products that consumers don't want.

This isn't the way things work in many cases. Instead of providing some of the things that many consumers want they often decline to stock them if it isn't profitable enough and they create markets for other products through marketing of products that may not have been as popular or that many parents may not want their children to have.

One of these examples may be the lack of flexible bulk kits of Lego and Lincoln Logs that many of us used to play with as children. Mostly what they sell no in store are kits that have very limited options and if you want to build something different you're supposed to buy another kit; which is great for profits but not great for the children that might receive more benefit from the more flexible kits as Susan Lin indicates in the following excerpt.

As I am sitting on the floor of a hospital playroom with Annie, who has just turned seven, she reaches for a box of Lincoln Logs and dumps them on the floor. In addition to the logs themselves, the set contains one plastic roof, one doorway, three window frames, and a set of instructions detailing exactly how to build three different structures. The original Lincoln Logs sets, from the 1930’scontained only logs-novice builders just left openings for windows and doors. At that point the kits did not come with reconstructed accoutrements, so children could place the openings anywhere. Like modern versions of Legos, today’s Lincoln Logs offerings come with instructions rather than a few suggestive pictures of multiple possibilities.

Keeping a rather anxious look at the pictures, Annie tries to duplicate one of the detailed models on the page. Before she has it exactly right she places a plastic roof on top. It doesn’t fit. We have not built the structure exactly to specification. Dismissing my suggestion that we build something of our own, she tries again to get it rights. In fact, it’s not clear to me that we could have created a structure much different from the three models. A building set that allows for creativity should contain lots of different-sized pieces: this kit contains only enough logs in just the right numbers to build only those structures depicted in the instructions.

Tiring of the logs, Annie pulls out a plastic container of dinosaurs. These come with plastic palm trees, rocks, and even a volcano. They also come with a plastic floor plan showing exactly where every tree and rock should go. “The trees go there,” she says pointing to the palm fronds depicted on the plastic. I place a tree frond in an unmarked piece of land. “No!” she says, moving it. “They have to go here.” The volcano and even the rocks have to go on their designated spots.

She takes out a dinosaur and hands me another one. “These have to fight,” she says. I begin making my dinosaur talk. “No! she insists. “They can’t talk.” “Why can’t they talk?” I asked, puzzled. ”It’s like in the movie,” she explains impatiently. “You know! They fight and they can’t talk.” (Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.70-1)

The toys that Wal-Mart and other retailers stock and promote heavily are the ones that are designed to provide maximum amount of profits and those that don't provide those profits often don't seem to be available at all anymore, or at least they don't seem to be available to those that accept the limited choices corporations offer them. Fortunately there are some other options for parents that are smart and persistent enough to seek them out but they're not in the stores that stocked them years ago.

Lego and Wal-Mart have been attempting to use patents and market power to control the amount of choices that they have been making available to the public and one way or another they have been partially successful, but not completely. Lego has attempted to maintain their patent on their products even though it has expired but they lost that battle in court and Megablocks and other companies can now make similar or identical products if they choose but for the most part they aren't available in stores and most people don't even know about them so it is only those that are well informed that can take advantage of this.

This probably should be considered an Anti-Trust violation; the way the free market is supposed to work is that corporations compete by trying to provide the best products that the public demands at the lowest price and this is supposed to encourage them to compete by providing higher quality products as well. This isn't actually the way it seems to work anymore now that they've gone through an enormous amount of mergers and acquisitions or wiped out smaller businesses with price wars or other methods. In many cases the few corporations that are left choose to stock items to maximize profits regardless of what many consumers want; and they no longer carry many items that some consumers may still want if it might interfere with the profits of other items. This includes what might be considered the old fashioned Legos, Mega-Bloks or Lincoln Logs, or perhaps you could call them "Creative Legos," as Susan Linn implied. These would be kits that didn't have all these narrow parts or instructions; instead they just had a lot of pieces so the child could use their imagination. If you look at the catalog that Lego provides they seem to ave an enormous variety and if you go to Wal-Mart or Toys R Us you'll probably find a fair selection of different choices but they probably don't include the "Creative Legos." If they offered this large variety in addition to "Creative Legos" then they could claim that they're increasing choices or if there wasn't a demand for simple "Creative Legos" then perhaps they could justify it; but that isn't what is happening. As clearly implied by Susan Linn's excerpt there are many child advocates that would like to have these options and if you search the internet you'll also find many so called Adult Lego Geeks, yet they don't stock them for these people.

There is a strong possibility that this might be because people might be less inclined to buy all these different kits if they had one flexible option that could keep children satisfied for a long time and encourage their development, as Susan Linn implied.

Fortunately many of these problems can be resolved by many people by simply boycotting all these items assuming they can find ways to educate their kids properly without them. In the case of "Creative Legos," those that look for them can find them without too much trouble by looking on line; however there is an enormous amount of peer pressure to buy many of these things so that they can get along with other kids. Even though many adults know how to deal with this their kids, under pressure from their peers, may have a hard time doing so and it would be helpful if there was a larger community of adults with children that are addressing this problem.

Many of these parents might just be inclined to teach their children to buy and play with all the same toys that we had when we were children or create them themselves. There are still plenty of stories about children that have more fun playing with the box that a toy comes in than the toy itself.

Well maybe they wouldn't want to teach their kids all the things they did when they were kids.

Remember that thing about putting a bicycle ramp at the back door riding the bike top speed through the house then jumping off a jump out the front door five or six feet in the air before spinning around and going to the back to do it all over again?

Remember the only two people in the neighborhood that didn't know about that were the people that owned the house?

No; well maybe you remember something different that you don't think we should teach kids.

Frankly even though I don't think we need to teach kids to do things like that there are other things they're doing now that are worse and I would think that some people would prefer going back to stunts like that compared to some of the violence that is being promoted by the media and video games now including even guns.

Many modern corporations don't seem to have qualms about stocking and promoting these even when many educators do. This may seem more important when people consider recent shootings like the one in Newtown as well as many others that have been going back two decades. There have been more before that but they don't appear to be nearly as common; and it would be a good idea to figure out why and prevent that. I went into this previously in "Continued withholding of solutions in Clackamas and Newtown" and clearly indicated that the leading contributing cause is almost certainly child abuse which leads to escalating violence later in life including bullying and other violence but indicated that there were almost certainly other contributing factors. advertising to children isn't one of the ones that I listed but media violence is and this may be intertwined with advertising to children especially when it comes to promoting violent video games or guns.

James Garbarino, a child psychologist who has studied this for years, has also indicated that he believes that abuse at an early age is a significant contributing cause to violence and that media violence and other things may also contribute as indicated in the following excerpt as well as his work in other studies or books.

How a boy becomes a killer

(CNN) -- Twenty children and six adults killed in a town in Connecticut. Why? As someone who listens to killers as an expert psychological witness in murder cases, I have spent much of the last 20 years trying to understand how and why young men kill, maim and attack others.

Killings like those in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; and Virginia Tech are always met with expressions of shock, anger and sadness. These are understandable first reactions, but in the long run they accomplish nothing.

So long as the discussion does not move beyond labeling these events "senseless violence," horrors such as these never move us closer to a place of deeper understanding. Greater understanding is crucial because understanding leads to more peace and less violence through preventive action. All the crime scene investigations in the world will not do this. ....

There is no one cause. It is as if they are building a tower of blocks, one by one, that can get so high it falls over, with innocent people dying. These building blocks can be found in a dangerous neighborhood or a school rife with bullying. They can be found through the Internet and mass media: the many, many web sites and videos that promote paranoid views of the world and validate violent action in retaliation.

Thinking twice about violent video games

They can be found in pervasive and intense playing of video games, the hands-on virtual violence that desensitizes young people to proxy killing. These games become a psychological pathway to real killing by dampening impulses of compassion and altruism.

They also come from a culture that supports access to lethal weapons: the crazy availability of guns like the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle used by Adam Lanza that are, in effect, weapons of mass destruction when turned against children at school, or moviegoers in a theater or shoppers at a mall. These weapons have no place in civilian life.

But moral damage and a misperception of reality usually are not enough to lead to murder. The typical killer is emotionally damaged and has developed mental health problems, perhaps exacerbated by being bullied and rejected by peers, or abused and neglected at home. He might be suffering from profound sadness, depression, despair, self aggrandizement and narcissism. .... Complete article

Both James Garbarino and Susan Linn have raised legitimate doubts about what they stock and promote and in both cases they have the best interest of children in mind while marketers, including Wal-Mart are more concerned with profit; yet in both cases the choice of what to stock and promote is contrary to what they believe is in the best interest of the child and how to help them develop properly. In both cases the best interests of those who donate to campaigns and are more interested in profit is what takes precedence. If the most common argument that they use for violent video games, that they shouldn't be censored and stores should be able to stock them, is legitimate then the same argument could and should be used to justify the stocking and promotion of the "Creative Legos" they used to carry but they no longer do.

In both cases the people doing the advertising receive an enormous opportunity to get their views across to a large segment of the public around the country even though they pass on the cost of their speech to the consumers who have no influence on the advertising that they ultimately pay for, nor do they even think about it; while the sincere researchers get little or no opportunity to get their views across to most people except a small percentage of people that seek them out in the library or through community organizations.

This should be considered especially important when it comes to stocking and promoting guns to children. to the best of my knowledge Wal-Mart doesn't do this in New England, where the Newtown incident occurred and several other states, presumably due to state laws about the ale of guns that prevent Wal-Mart from selling them; however they apparently do stock guns in many other parts of the country. Even if Wal-Mart isn't promoting guns to children according to a recent article published in the New York times and the Boston Globe, "Gunmakers looking to youths as future firearms owners," the gun industry clearly is as indicated by the following excerpt from the article.

Gunmakers looking to youths as future firearms owners

Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.

The industry’s strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for “junior shooters” and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers.

The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle.

At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.

“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”

The industry’s youth-marketing effort is backed by extensive social research and is carried out by an array of nonprofit groups financed by the gun industry, an examination by The New York Times found. The campaign picked up steam about five years ago with the completion of a major study that urged a stronger emphasis on the “recruitment and retention” of new hunters and target shooters. .... Complete article

This article doesn't implicate Wal-Mart but it is of interest to anyone that is concerned about marketing to children. Besides even if Wal-Mart isn't directly involved in marketing guns to children they have been very reluctant to curb sales for any reason unless there is an overwhelming opposition from the public which I believed did happen recently in response to the Newtown shooting. There was a protest at a nearby Wal-Mart even though that one didn't sell guns and I had thought that it convinced Wal-Mart to limit sales of amunition; however it turns out that this was only due to a shortage not because the protests that have been going on according to several articles about the subject including "Wal-Mart limits ammunition sales as demand soars," LA Times.

Whether it is Wal-Mart marketing to children or the gun industry sincere advocates for children like Susan Linn and James Garbarino don't have nearly as much opportunity to get their views across to the political establishment of the public as the gun industry or Wal-Mart who both have plenty of opportunity to lobby politicians and get their views on the Mass Media while the most sincere advocates are relegated to the shelves of the library and the web pages that a much smaller percentage of the public has exposure to.

Unfortunately when it comes to many of the most important issues the truth as it is presented to the public is for sale to the highest bidder and only those who go to the trouble to sort out the facts recognize this.

This is common practice for media outlets controlled by propaganda; not for a fair and balanced approach that enables the majority to hear all views especially those that stand up to scrutiny the best.

The practice declining to stock many items isn't limited to toys; it also goes to the stocking of durable clothes that used to be common place and many of us took for granted. As I indicated in a series of posts previously about "A small success against planned obsolescence" even though there is a large variety of sneakers available now none of them last nearly as long as the sneakers we used to be able to buy decades ago; the same thing goes for many other simple basic items including jeans which we used to have to buy a little large because they would shrink and we had to break them in; then they came up with "pre-washed jeans" which was supposed to solve that problem but now they don't last nearly as long. Instead of competing to provide quality merchandise they all stock products that have been slowly reducing their quality so that many people have to buy the same items three or four times as often as they used to.

This is essentially planned obsolescence and it is partially covered up by an enormous amount of advertising that encourages children to buy more items than they need and since they rotate their clothes more often it isn't as noticeable that they're falling apart much quicker; or at least not to those that fall for these marketing scams. Many children may not even know that we used to be able to buy products that lasted much longer than they used to; but once any older person thinks it through they often recognize it.

The use of planned obsolescence is also wide spread in toys as well; this isn't something new but it is almost certainly much more extreme than it used to be. In Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer they had an "Island of Misfit Toys;" we used to have a "broken toy room" which is what we eventually wound up calling an attic storage room because every year one or two month after Christmas most of the toys we would get would start breaking down or in some cases we would just get bored with them.

This has almost certainly become much more extreme in recent years and the escalation of advertising marketed to children whether it is from Wal-Mart or their suppliers or any other corporations is clearly a major reason for this. This excessive epidemic of consumerism isn't doing anything to improve the quality of life for the people that have been buying up all these things only so they could get excited about them for a little while before they break. Thirty years ago when all the Christmas gifts were broken or we got bored with them we used to go back to the same old games most of which didn't require much if any purchases from the stores; or if they did they were often the least expensive purchases like a simple deck of cards. Kids used to have as much fun if not more with games like kick the can, tag, body surfing, building sand castles, making tree huts, often out of building supplies that were abandoned in old buildings so they would have been thrown away otherwise.

There is simply no reason why parents or children should have to give corporations large amounts of money to find games to play or, in most cases, help with their education; a leading reason why many people seem to think this is necessary is because non-stop advertising is telling them it is necessary from cradle to grave.

This isn't just advertising it is propaganda.

Susan Linn has indicated the same or similar things in the following excerpts:

Parents have cause for alarm. People who highly value material goods (an orientation reinforced by consumer marketing) are likely to be more unhappy and have a lower quality of life than those who value more internal or non-material rewards such as creativity, competence, and contributing to the community. ....

It turns out things do not make us happy. In studies conducted across the globe, researcher find that relationships and job satisfaction are what brings us the most happiness. Not only that, people with predominantly materialistic values-those who believe happiness rests in the next car, CD, toy, or pair of shoes-are actually less happy than their neighbors. People who live in countries where disasters-natural or otherwise-have left them bereft of food, medical care and adequate shelter, are significantly less happy than those who live in countries with a comfortable standard of living; but researchers have found no difference in the (collective) happiness of people in wealthy countries and of people of less wealthy countries where basic needs are being met. (Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.6-9, 184)

In addition to leading children to buy, directly or through their parents, products that don't make them much happier it is also a major threat to the democratic process and the environment since it encourages them to buy many more items they don't need and this dramatically adds to the amount of environmental destruction that continues to escalate without adequate coverage from the commercial media. Susan Linn has also addressed this, whether it is marketing by Wal-Mart or any other corporation, in the following excerpts:

While the lessons children learn from commercial messages undermine religious teachings and family values, they are a disaster for democracy. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” requires a population characterized by certain attributes, including the capacity for critical thinking, cooperation, generosity, and nonviolent conflict resolution. Democracy depends on a populace that grasps the importance of checks and balances, and the delicate balance between individual rights and the greater good. They must see the value of diversity and eschew violence as a means of solving problems.

We are a population so saturated in consumerism that, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, we were exhorted by our government to go shopping as an expression of patriotism. Evoking patriotism as a justification for buying something certainly beats the normal reasons kids might give when they nag: “But Mom, everyone will think we’re unpatriotic if you don’t take me to the mall.” In September 2002, when President Bush’s chief of staff was asked by a New York Times reporter why the administration waited until the fall to launch its campaign for a war with Iraq, his answer was, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” However you felt, or feel, about that particular war, do you want your children to equate war with a new brand of sneakers? Do you consider war a product?

Being a good citizen is not the same thing as being a good customer. Citizenship in a democracy requires absorbing and adhering to a set of attributes and behaviors that can be learned beginning in early childhood. Cooperation, activism, critical thinking, peaceful resolution of confli9ct, and altruism are just a few of those qualities and behaviors essential in democratic populace. Children may learn these at home, at school, or on the playground. They do not learn them in the marketplace. On the contrary, the attributes and behaviors corporate marketers want to instill in children are mostly antithetical to democracy.

Take brand loyalty, which has been described as the “Holy Grail” for marketers. According to James McNeal, “We have living proof of the long-lasting quality of early brand loyalties in the Cradle-to-grave marketing at McDonald’s, and how well it works…. We start taking children in for their first and second birthdays, and on and on, and eventually they have a great deal of preference for that brand. Children can carry that with them through a lifetime."

As brand loyalty increases, customers are less sensitive to changes in how much that brand costs. They are also less likely to notice or be susceptible to competitive promotions sponsored by other companies. This allows companies to raise prices without a lot of complaint, and drives down the amount that companies have to spend on marketing. Brand loyalty means that a person might keep buying a brand even if their original reasons for purchasing it-such as costs-may no longer be valid, and even if it is actually in their best interest to buy the same kind of product from a different company. Brand loyalty is beneficial to a company, but not necessarily good for a customer.

By the same token, unthinking loyalty to a politician or a political party is extremely beneficial to elected officials and established political parties because it chills a voter’s inclination to make comparisons with other candidates and to examine voting records. (Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004 p.190-1)

In addition to threatening to undermine the critical thinking skills that children develop Wal-Mart and many other corporations have been trying to dramatically increase their influence in the school system and it has had a major negative impact. they have been doing this through advertising ins schools and the promotion of charter Schools which have often been influenced by the agendas of the corporations that have been promoting them and they haven't necessarily been teaching children to recognize the negative impacts that many corporations have on our society. I reviewed some of the advertising that they have been doing on Channel One in a previous post about "Roy Fox Harvesting Minds, Channel One Indoctrination of Kids;" so I won't go into that too much more here; but the following excerpt about Diane Ravitch shed some additional light on their attempts to use money they collect from consumers to impact the education system without passing on the influence on the schools to their customers that ultimately pay for their political activities since they're essentially a business expense.

“Before considering the specific goals and activities of these foundations, it is worth reflecting on the wisdom of allowing education policy to be directed or, one might say, captured by private foundations. There is something fundamentally antidemocratic about relinquishing control of the public education policy agenda to private foundations run by society’s wealthiest people.”[1]

- Diane Ravitch, education historian and Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush

When the richest family in the country inserts itself into the education policy debate, ordinary Americans have reason to be concerned. Why should one family’s overwhelmingly deep pockets give them the right to play such an outsized role in determining how the next generation of American students is educated? What are they really trying to accomplish? ......

In her most recent book, education historian Diane Ravitch, Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush and a former supporter of charters and vouchers,[34] clearly articulates the problem with Walton-style education philanthropy:

These foundations, no matter how worthy and high-minded, are after all, not public agencies. They are not subject to public oversight or review, as a public agency would be. They have taken it upon themselves to reform public education, perhaps in ways that would never survive the scrutiny of voters in any district or state. If voters don’t like the foundations’ reform agenda, they can’t vote them out of office. The foundations demand that public schools and teachers be held accountable for performance, but they themselves are accountable to no one. If their plans fail, no sanctions are levied against them. They are bastions of unaccountable power.[35]

The Waltons and the Walton Family Foundation have gargantuan financial resources and can exert undue influence on politicians and public policy issues of their choosing. No matter where people come down on the issues of education reform or school choice, we can all agree it is unfair that the Walton family gets to dictate the future of public education because of the amount of money at its disposal, and to do so in a way that is unaccountable to the public.

Remember, too, that the Waltons—white, rural, and mind-bogglingly wealthy—pursue their education reform goals in low-income, urban communities where the student populations consist largely of children of color. When a profoundly privileged family seeks to engage in philanthropy in historically marginalized communities that they are not part of, the lack of accountability is even more troubling.

The Waltons and their foundation have reaped billions and billions of dollars from a ruthless business model that relies on Walmart jobs being insecure and unstable jobs, with low wages, skimpy benefits, and little respect in the workplace. Their company has helped create a world where parents have to work two or more jobs, with unstable hours to make ends meet. They’ve helped create a world where parents struggle with choices like paying rent, putting food on the table or taking a sick child to the doctor. And now the Waltons want to tell us how to fix our schools? The Walmart model has made its impact on much of the world. But, for many, the Walmartization of our schools is one step too far. Complete article at Wal-Mart 1%

A simple argument could be made that this is coming from an organization that seems to have an anti-Wal-Mart agenda; and perhaps the same argument could be made about me but any argument is as good as it's sources and I think that a closer look at Diane Ravitch would indicate that she has plenty of credibility and that she has been peer reviewed by contributors of The National Education Policy Center which she also contributes to. The following are a couple of her other contributions on the subject that were published at The National Education Policy Center.

"What You Need To Know About ALEC" by Diane Ravitch May 2, 2012 National Education Policy Center

This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own "reform" ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the "reform" agenda for education.

ALEC operated largely in the dark for years, but gained notoriety because of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. It turns out that ALEC crafted the "Stand Your Ground" legislation that empowered George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager with the defense that he (the shooter) felt threatened. When the bright light of publicity was shone on ALEC, a number of corporate sponsors dropped out, including McDonald's, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Mars, Wendy's, Intuit, Kaplan, and PepsiCo. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that it would not halt its current grant to ALEC, but pledged not to provide new funding. ALEC has some 300 corporate sponsors, including Walmart, the Koch Brothers, and AT&T, so there's still quite a lot of corporate support for its free-market policies. ALEC claimed that it is the victim of a campaign of intimidation. Complete article

"Waltons Will Spend More to Privatize Public Education" by Diane Ravitch January 8, 2013 National Education Policy Center

The Walton Foundation likes vouchers and charters. It does not like public schools.

Last year, it spend $159 million to promote vouchers and charters.

In addition, members of the billionaire family have dumped a few million here and there into political campaigns, like the Georgia referendum to allow the governor to create charters despite the opposition of the local school board, or the Washington State referendum to allow charters in that state.

Now the Walton Foundation plans to expand. As a local Arkansas blogger puts it, “Wow, when the Walton family — which has put more than $1 billion into “education reform” through its foundation and spent untold millions more in separate political activities — indicates it’s going to increase its political effort it’s time for political opponents to build a bomb shelter.” Complete article

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She serves on the board of the Core Knowledge Foundation, Common Core, the Albert Shanker Institute of the American Federation of Teachers, and Common Good. She is an honorary life trustee of the New York Public Library and a former Guggenheim Fellow. From 1991 to 1993, she served as the United States Assistant Secretary of Education, and from 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

For additional information see also "Charter Schools: In Whose Interests?" by Jack Hassard also at the National Education Policy Center

The same people that are trying to encourage children to nag their parents are trying to use the money they collect from many consumers who don't express their political views when they make purchases, or at least they don't intend to even though the people running corporations routinely use this money for political purposes are trying to increase their influence on the education system over the objections of many local parents and educators.

It would be foolish to assumes that they have the best interest of children in mind when they promote Charter Schools. When these activities were exposed in the media many of the sponsors of these efforts have stopped funding the American Legislative Exchange council; but Wal-Mart isn't one of them they appear to be continuing to finance them. Even if they did stop financing ALEC it wouldn't indicate that they're no longer pursuing the same agenda as indicated by the "Bill and Melinda gates Foundation" which did withdraw future financing after it was made public but they have been clearly pursuing the privatization of schools through other means and William J. Mathis from the National Education Policy Center has written or contributed to several studies that indicate that their agenda is based on false data that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Their credibility when it comes to their politics or their agenda with schools doesn't improve when you consider the credibility of their advertising that they ave been promoting for years and a lot of it has clearly been proven to be questionable if not blatantly false as indicated by the following article.

Wal-Mart Pulls Misleading Ads -- Again 6/27/09

Advertising Board Says Wal-Mart's Savings To Shoppers "Not Even Close"

The driving mission of the Wal-Mart corporation is to make money by saving its customers money. "At Wal-Mart," the company says, "everything we do flows from our purpose of saving people money so they can live better."

This week, Wal-Mart's truthfulness about "saving people money" was called into doubt again. The retailer's cost-saving claims in its advertising were labeled "unsupported" by the advertising industry's cop -- the National Advertising Division. The NAD, in a case published this month, found that Wal-Mart's radio and TV ads which claimed "you could save on average over $700 a year" on groceries, was not based on any evidence in the record.

If all of this sounds familiar, it should. In 1993, Target challenged to the NAD Wal-Mart's advertising slogan, "Always the low price. Always." The NAD ruled that the ads were misleading, because Wal-Mart did not always have the lowest prices. Wal-Mart appealed the NAD ruling to the National Advertising Review Board, a group of 70 professionals from the advertising field. Wal-Mart ultimately agreed to slightly change its slogan to "Always low prices. Always. Wal-Mart." The NARB ruled that Wal-Mart's older slogan, which it had used for nearly six years, indicated that Wal-Mart carries the lowest price for all items at all times -- a claim it simply couldn't substantiate.

Wal-Mart has spent a fortune misleading consumers. Last year Wal-Mart spent $2.3 billion on advertising. By comparison, ten years ago its advertising budget was $405 million. In this past decade, Wal-Mart's net income has increased three fold (from $4.43 billion in 1999 to $13.4 billion in 2009), but its advertising budget has skyrocketed almost six-fold.

These advertising watchdogs like NAD and NARB have bitten Wal-Mart repeatedly, but the company's deceptions simply morph into new slogans that imply savings that are neither honest, nor accurate. Wal-Mart boasts that 'always low prices' was Sam Walton's 'pricing philosophy' when he opened his first Wal-Mart in 1962. But the retailer has struggled over the years with truth in its advertising -- and it has been the burden of its competitors to repeatedly challenge its unsubstantiated claims. American shoppers have been manipulated into believing not only that Wal-Mart will save them money, but that the retailer can even quantify how much. Complete article

This should be considered just a small sample of the problems with the credibility of their advertising. It wasn't that long ago that they were running public relations ads promoting people that were proud to work at Wal-Mart and talking about how pleasant it was; anyone familiar with their reputation would have known at the time that this was blatantly false but it wasn't too long after they stopped running them that their problems with employee satisfaction became so great that they started protesting and even the commercial media that has ignored it for so long was forced to provide some coverage of it for a little while. the same could easily go for their claims to be environmentally friendly; they have even included some spots on their web site indicating that they're protecting the environment by relying on electronic receipts in some cases which might be considered laughable by many people since receipts have little impact on the environment while the amount of damage that is done by planned obsolescence is enormous and a quick search of their internet will easily turn up an enormous amount of additional problems with Wal-Marts reputation on the environment.

They seem to be following the agenda of BP and the rest of the energy companies; if they get caught conducting an enormous amount of environmental damage do little or nothing to repair it but come up with an enormous public relations campaign to convince the public the problem is being solved even if it isn't.

That is a leading problem with advertising; it always has a financial motive that provides incentive to distort the truth if they think they can get away with it. Even if it was credible it is also extremely expensive and this cost is routinely passed on the the consumer as what could be considered and "advertising tax;" or even if you don't adopt that term the results are the same the expense has to be passed on to the consumer for the lies that they're told.

Could you imagine what it would sound like if someone walked up to you and told you that 2 plus 2 equals 5 and then told you that you owed him five dollars to pay for the lie that he just told you?

That may not be exactly what they've been doing with advertising but it is way to damn close; it is only a slightly more sophisticated scam than that if you think it through.

And the amazing thing is that many people in the business community think that they should increase the amount of money they spend even more!!

One Fix for Walmart's Woes: Spend More on Better TV Advertising By: Laura Ries

In a down economy with consumers pinching every penny, you would think that sales at a retailer synonymous with "cheap" would be up, not down. Yet sales at Walmart have been down for two years in a row. Actually, that's nine straight quarters of decline.

The only good news at Walmart is profits rose this quarter 5.7%, but that was mostly due to cost cutting and international growth.

The really bad news is that Walmart's core U.S. business, which accounts for 62% of sales, is in a seemingly irreversible slump with fewer consumers coming into stores. How can this be? And what can Walmart possibly do to reverse it?

The answer has nothing to do with better-looking clothes, smaller stores or launching a Facebook page. The answer is all about reinforcing and defending the Walmart brand in the mind.

So how does the world's largest retailer defend its position in the mind?

Advertising. Massive advertising that reminds consumers in a memorable way what the Walmart brand stands for. But here is where Walmart is making three classic mistakes.

1. Walmart isn't spending enough money on advertising.

Unless you spend enough to get above the noise level, money spent on advertising can be extremely wasteful. That's why mass-media advertising for a brand that isn't well known or doesn't have enough money to spend is ill advised. A brand like this is better off doing PR, social media and anything else it can think of. ...

The most effective way to protect a well-known brand with mass appeal is with mass advertising. If you can afford it, nothing is more powerful than mass advertising to protect and defend your position in the marketplace and in the mind. That's how leaders manage to stay leaders for long periods of time. By spending only a few percentage points of sales, they can dominate the media and outspend their competition. AT&T spends $2.9 billion on advertising. American Express, $2.2 billion. Walt Disney, $1.9 billion. Comcast, $1.8 billion. Toyota, $1.7 billion. Anheuser-Busch, $1.3 billion. McDonald's, $1.2 billion.

The leader has the ability to way outspend the competition. Look at McDonald's vs. Burger King. Most consumers think Burger King's burgers taste better, but it doesn't matter. McDonald's dominates the category by spending $1.29 billion on advertising. Burger King spends almost $400 million, which buys a lot of advertising. But since McDonald's outspends them three-fold, Burger King's message gets lost and the brand suffers.

Walmart spends $2.1 billion a year on advertising. But compared to other retailers, Walmart is underspending in relation to its sales. Walmart spends 0.8% compared to Target at 2.2% and Sears at 4.7%. Complete article

Laura Ries and many other business people don't even consider the possibility that steadily increasing the amount of money they spend on advertising may eventually backfire when it takes up a steadily growing portion of the GDP; nor do they seem interested in the fact that advertising expenses do absolutely nothing to benefit the consumers who ultimately have to pay for it if they're successful.

They clearly seem to be primarily or solely concerned with the short term best interest of the business; and when they see that short term increases lead to increased sales they think it is good and they should do the same thing over and over again.

One obvious problem, to many, is that these increases in sales come with an increase in fraud since the advertisements are generally, if not always, misleading or outright lies. Furthermore she almost certainly isn't taking into consideration the full extent of the amount of adverting that is taking place. In addition to the amount of money Wal-Mart spends on advertising there is also a lot of money being spent by their suppliers and there is almost certainly a lot of money being spent on adverting that is being attributed to other sources.

The amount of money being spent on marketing has been rising steadily for decades and they're gradually replacing merchandise with hype and lies. The evidence of this can be found in several places including many reports bout how much advertising spending has been rising. Benjamin Barber has reported that the amount of money being spent on advertising rose from $39 billion in 1950 to $256 billion in 1990 (Benjamin Barber “Jihad Vs. McWorld” 1995 p.62); Naomi Klein has reported that it increased even more in the nineties reaching $435 billion in 1998 (Naomi Klein “No Logo” p.8-9); and there are many other reports that clearly indicate that advertising expenses have continued to rise since then but there may be good reason to believe that it may not being fully reported.

According to Laura Ries prior to 2011 Wal-Mart was spending $2.1 billion dollars a year on advertising; according to a 2012 article in the Business Insider that may have actually gone down, which would be a rare exception, to $1.89 billion. they both indicate that Wal-Mart spends much less on advertising than many other competitors. However my personal observations raise doubts about this. Laura Ries indicated that she rarely saw Wal-Mart commercials on TV as part of her justification for her recommendations; however I have seen an enormous amount of Wal-Mart commercials and this isn't something new. Recently they have been playing a lot of commercials where they have a girl get all excited about how the prices are so low; and on or about the time she wrote her article I think they were probably doing their spots about how many people were happy and proud to work at Wal-Mart.

Neither of these spots do anything to give consumers any information they need to make decisions and they're both misleading. As indicated previously it wasn't long after the Wal-Mart pride commercials ran that it became clear to everyone who wasn't paying attention that their employees weren't happy with Wal-Mart at all. The spot where thee girls get excited about price is also misleading when you consider the quality of their merchandise; they have cut their manufacturing costs even more than many other retailer so much that the quality of their merchandise is terrible so even if some of their products are cheaper, or seem cheaper they fall apart much faster so people have to replace them over and over again. I will go into this more in my next post about Wal-Mart but additional information is already available from "Walmart’s greenwash: Why the retail giant is still unsustainable" at Grist provides additional information already.

Another important thing that is worth considering is the fact that the people who work at Wal-Mart doing basic functions are providing a service that improves the quality of the merchandise or service that benefits the consumers; and yet there are numerous reports that they're being abused by Wal-Mart especially in the sweatshops half way around the world where there is much less worker protection laws. The people that do advertisements for Wal-Mart appear to be treated much better even if they aren't making an enormous amount of money in many cases. the celebrity endorsers are paid much more and they certainly aren't being abused. Yet these people don't provide a service that improves the quality of merchandise or service.

Generally speaking this seems to mean that Wal-Mart pays people well and treats them well if they don't do much if anything to benefit the customer; but when it comes to workers that do provide a service that benefits the consumer they're often subject to abuse and as much wage suppression as Wal-Mart can get away with.

One spot that they have provided that wasn't repeated very often may have actually provided a rare piece of information that was worthwhile; a couple of months ago I saw one spot saying briefly that they now had Lee or Levi jeans in stock at Wal-Mart. This seems trivial and the type of thing that many of us took for granted for a long time but a few years ago I noticed that they didn't have any of the brands that I used to buy and that they have been slowly disappearing while I wasn't paying attention. It turned out that the pairs they did have was the most pathetic pairs of jeans that I have ever seen.

Now all the decent brands are back, presumably due to backlash from many customers not just me; however I have serious doubts about whether they match the quality they used to provide. If they never took these off the shelf in the first place then it never would have been necessary to run ads to remind people that they were providing; and they tried to do this in a manner that didn't remind those that didn't already notice that they stopped stocking many of these things for a while.

Another thing that is worth considering is where they spend their advertising money and why. According to the Business Insider they spend $1.89 billion while Kohl's has spent only $1.12 billion but they have a much larger share in the market so they would presumably be spending much less money as a percentage than Kohl's. this doesn't appear to be the case at all in my area which has both and I have taken notice to some degree of how frequent both have been advertising although it isn't precise. For a long time Kohl's seemed to be spending more in the news paper while Wal-Mart has always spent much more on TV which is more expensive. Lately Wal-Mart seems to have also been spending almost as much on newspapers. this isn't precise but the difference seems large enough that it is clear that Wal-Mart is almost certainly spending as much if not much more on adverting in my area.

A possible explanation might be very simple; they almost certainly spend much more where they have more competition and many rural areas don't provide much competition for Wal-Mart so they almost certainly don't spend as much there. But this almost certainly doesn't indicate that they pass on these savings to their customers; instead they keep the extra profits for themselves. Before the media consolidated there were several reports about how stores with less competition tended to have higher prices; now they rarely report on this but there should be little doubt that this continues unreported or investigated.

An additional potential problem with Wal-Marts supposedly low advertising appears to be that they're using their market power to pressure their suppliers to do their advertising for them and this presumably wouldn't be reported under advertising in their financial reports; but it would be reported as advertising for their suppliers and it would add on to the cost they charge Wal-Mart which would bring the same results. This tactic was reported initially by Advertising Age and reposted at Reclaim Democracy, "Walmart Threatens Suppliers to Gain Their Promotion Dollars." This tactic should be considered a major Anti-Trust violation and it could give Wal-Mart an unfair advantage over their competitors, including some that might be inclined to provide better service or price. It also indicates that their reported advertising expenses may be artificially low.

There may be a strong possibility that they're also conducting some additional activities that disguise their ads as grass roots support that almost certainly isn't without incentives. this seems like a conspiracy theory but their have been numerous reports of this type of activity being exposed and, quite frankly sometimes it is easy to recognize when you look at certain sources. One of the more blatant examples that I have come across recently where a corporations has obviously been using this tactic is a TV advertising scam for TryNoNo hair removal; this review site claims to be from a customer and indicates that she created it because she's so happy with the product; but no one would ever pay for a domain page and create a professional looking site like this for that reason.

This is an Obvious Ad!

An example of one that has done the same thing by Wal-Mart clearly seems to be this toy review, Toy Shopping Made Easy with Walmart’s Toyland Tuesday + A Giveaway! this appears to be an unbiased blog at first glance but if you happen to pass the cursor over the "PR & Collaborations" link at the top it will provide a disclosure which could also be misleading; it claims she isn't paid for her reviews implying that they're unbiased but she is getting money for other reasons which may create an unofficial incentive. Another of her blog posts reinforces this possibility "My New Website is LIVE: I’m Officially an Entrepreneur!" Unfortunately this may also have racial implication as well; it may seem as if they might be doing a favor for as minority by giving them consulting work, or what ever tehy're calling it but this is almost certainly an effort to target low income or minority people that can least afford to fall for these scams. This type of racial marketing may also contribute to the Black Friday Riots which I wrote about previously and cited my reasons why I though advertising to children was impacting that as well. If so then Wal-Mart would be partially or mostly responsible for this annual event which has become routine.

This tactic is much more common than most people realize and the advertising industry has been using many variation of this for years whether it is for Wal-Mart or other corporations. Juliet Schor reported about how the "Girl’s Intelligence Agency" attempts to recruit children to market to each other and it has interfered with their social relation in a negative manner (Juliet Schor “Born to Buy” 2004 p.76).. The Girl’s Intelligence Agency was founded in 2002 but this tactic may have begun decades earlier when it may have been developed by the Tobacco industry. I didn't know it at the time but I may have encountered one of their early efforts to use peer pressure to promote tobacco when they had a V-8 promotion that was hardly advertised but a kid came to town who told some of the cool kids about it and they spread the word. In the early eighties or late seventies I remember being confused about why a couple of kids were getting excited about whether there was a tab at the bottom of a Marlboro cigarette pack that had a v8 on it and asked why they cared about something so silly. I was told that some kid came around and told them about this advertising promotion and if they found a v8 on the tab they would get a free package of cigarettes. this seemed stupid to me and I wondered why the Tobacco industry would do such a thing since hardly anyone knew about it. It wasn't until decades later that I read about these tactics being used to promote many things that I thought about it and this was almost certainly an early peer pressure marketing tactic from the tobacco companies.

Juliet Schor Susan Linn and several other researchers later exposed many of these tactics in their books and they cited numerous sources to indicate that this isn't just a wild conspiracy theory.

We live in a world that is replacing most information available to most people with advertising and unless people recognize this they won't realize that a large percentage of the sources that they used to consider reliable are no longer trustworthy becasue tehy ahve an incentive to lie or distort the truth and in many cases they try to minimize or avoid disclosure.

Advertising is replacing merchandise and services that we used to take for granted.

It isn't just advertising that is replacing merchandise and services though; the cost of shipping things half way around the world has been going up and the cost of campaign contributions and lobbying have also been going up but the consumers and workers receive little or no benefit for this just the lower standard of living.

There have been numerous discussions about how to make adverting more ethical and most of them focus on whether certain relatively minor aspects of advertising are ethical or not. In many cases these aspects seem extreme but they pale in comparison to the basics of adverting and a quick review of that should indicate that most if not all adverting that is done is unethical under the current circumstances.

The objective of adverting isn't to give customers the most accurate information they need to make important decisions; it is to present them with information that is designed to benefit the person or corporations paying for the ads and enable them to increase their profits by presenting a misleading perception of the truth.

By controlling the informaiton the consumer receives they try to control the decisions the consumer makes; then since this is a business expense if they're successful one way or another the cost of these ads have to be passed on to the consumers.

Unless advertising is kept to a minimum and there is a fair amount of fact checking involved then all advertising is unethical. It's like lying to people and billing them for their lies.

To make things worse the dominant media outlets that we rely on for most of our information get their financial incentives from these ads so they now ahve an incentive to lie and cover up many of their scams and it is clear that that is exactly what they're doing.

This is a massive epidemic and it is leading to many people making many of their most important decisions based on lies or biased information even their political decisions and decisions about how to protect the environment and everything else.

The adverting industry has learned that the most effective way to indoctrinate people is to get to them as young as possible and that is what they're doing! Once they start controlling the information we receive they try not to stop and for the most part they're having an enormous amount of success but there are still sources available to find more accurate information at the grass roots level and bring about reform if enough people do so.

The following are some organizations that have adressed this issue:

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment (TRUCE)

Child Honouring
Shaping Youth

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC); includes hundreds of studies on Charter Schools and marketing to children from peer reviewed scholars.

The following are some articles or bloggers adressing thes issues.

“Electric Youth: Why Susan Linn and her Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood Terrify Child Advertisers“ Boston Magazine

Moms Rising see their article about GeoGirls at Walmart: Just What A Girl (Doesn’t) Need?

San Francisco Just Landed a Blow For Parents…

PhD in Parenting

Food Politics and their Marketing to kids author tag

"Tricks of the Trade: Selling to Children," by Gary Ruskin first published in Mothering Magazine 1999 Ironically if you look at the ads on this page or go beyond it to the main domain you might find it is dominated by advertisers using these tricks, discretion advised as usual.

"Advertising to children: Is it ethical?" by Rebecca Clay at the APA

"Additional articles about unethical marketing to children at

The following are books that ahve written more extensively about the subject or related subjects.

Susan Linn "Consuming Kids" 2004

Juliet Schor “Born to Buy.“ 2004

Roy Fox "Harvesting Minds“ or see my blog review of this book

Roy Fox “MediaSpeak: Three American Voices“

Naomi Klein “No Logo” 1999

Alissa Quart “Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers“ 2003

Mark Crispin Miller “Boxed In“ 1988

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