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July 18th, 2006


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07:56 pm - We're talking about a totally outrageous paradigm!
This may well be the funniest goddamn news story all month.

http://adage.com/article?article_id=110520

Wal-Mart Tries to Be MySpace. Seriously
Retailer's 'Social' Site May Be too Unhip and Strict to Catch Teen-Apparel Dollars

By Mya Frazier

Published: July 17, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- It's a quasi-social-networking site for teens designed to allow them to "express their individuality," yet it screens all content, tells parents their kids have joined and forbids users to e-mail one another. Oh, and it calls users "hubsters" -- a twist on hipsters that proves just how painfully uncool it is to try to be cool.

Desperate to appeal to teens with something other than pencils and backpacks during the crucial back-to-school season, Wal-Mart is launching a highly sanitized, controlled and rather unhip site at walmart.com/schoolyourway. Teens are invited to create their own page, "show it to the world and win some fab prizes," including a chance to have their videos appear in a Wal-Mart TV commercial. Wal-Mart's agency is GSD&M, Austin, Texas.

The opening page shows video of four teens -- a bubbly fashionista, a Texas football player, a quirky skateboarder and an aspiring R&B singer from New York -- who are clearly actors reading a script, although the videos are positioned to appear authentic. Within, there are pages such as "Beth's Backyard Club," where you find a picture of her in a strapless prom dress above the approved quote: "I'll school my way by looking hot in my Wal-Mart clothes to school to catch a cute boy's eye. ..."

'Are these real kids?'
The site is an attempt at closing the trend gap Wal-Mart now faces as Target wins more teen-apparel dollars. But if Wal-Mart thought it could win over Amy Kandel, 14, of Columbus, Ohio, it was wrong. "Some of the kids looked like they were trying to be supercool, but they weren't at all, and they were just being kind of weird," she said. "Are these real kids?"

Nor did it impress Pete Hughes, 18. "It just seemed kind of corny to me," he said.

Wal-Mart declined to comment.

No doubt leery of all the problems with MySpace.com, Wal-Mart's site disqualifies any video with "materials that are profane, disruptive, unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, vulgar, obscene, hateful, or racially or ethnically-motivated, or otherwise objectionable." That's why "pending approval" notes dominate pages already created and content is limited to a headline, a fashion quiz and a favorite song. Wal-Mart also plans to e-mail the parents of every registered teen, giving them the discretion to pull a submission.

Moreover, the retailer reserves the right to edit the commercial created with the winning video, obviously hoping to avoid the fate of Chevrolet's Tahoe, which allowed consumers to create their own video spots unchecked and ended up with some unflattering results.

Don't expect a subversive, ironic ad
So a subversive, ironic ad by a savvy teen on how her dad's hardware shop closed down after the retail goliath rolled into town would likely be "otherwise objectionable" to Wal-Mart.

The tight controls will work against Wal-Mart's goal to make the site more edgy and will instead cement the retailer's image as a conformist brand, said Tim Stock, a researcher with New York-based Scenario DNA, a research firm devoted to studying Gen Y.

"The second you try to create boundaries and draw a line around content and put a box around content, it becomes something else. Teens aren't searching for what a company deems relevant, but what they deem relevant," Mr. Stock said. "You can't own it. When anyone tries to own it too much, then it becomes a problem. That's the impression I get on this site."

A lot at stake
And there's a lot at stake here. "Wal-Mart really needs this to work," said Irma Zandl of youth-marketing firm Zandl Group. "Over the last year, we have been getting increasingly bad feedback from teen girls about Wal-Mart in contrast to Target -- especially Wal-Mart's apparent lack of cleanliness, messy layout and lack of stylish attire. This attempt at 'we media' is terrific. We'll have to wait and see if it's enough to overcome in-store issues."

But it won't change the shopping habits of Molly Morgan, 14, who goes to Wal-Mart only when her mom does to buy groceries and spends her monthly $150 clothing budget at Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and Nordstrom.

The Columbus teen doubts she'll submit a video or enter the contests because "it, like, takes a lot of time, and it's not very likely you'll win."

Dear Irma Zandl: Thanks for all the laffs, but I swear to God I will beat you over the head with your own paradigm if you ever use the phrase "we media" again.

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:lno
Date:July 19th, 2006 12:09 am (UTC)
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Lord, a $150 monthly clothing budget? I had to fight rats for scraps, and then skin them to make my furs! Kids these days.
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From:semer
Date:July 19th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC)
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Parents today TERRIFY me. O_o
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From:dogofthefuture
Date:July 19th, 2006 08:02 am (UTC)
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Christ almighty in heaven, if I ever spend $150 in a month on clothes? Well, first my wife will approve, but also, we'll be broke after about 3 months. And also I'll be somebody else other than me.
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From:annilita
Date:July 19th, 2006 12:27 am (UTC)
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Could I please have a $150 clothing budget? Please?
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From:semer
Date:July 19th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC)
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Ooh ooh, me too! I could buy like, an entire thrift store with that!!
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From:spwebdesign
Date:July 22nd, 2006 01:41 pm (UTC)
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That's about how much I spend every six months on clothes, if I'm lucky.
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From:reveritas
Date:July 19th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
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what.the.fuck.

IT IS WAL-MART.

IT WILL ALWAYS BE WAL-g.d.-MART. IT IS NOT COOL, OR HIP, IT IS WAL.

MART.

YOU CAN'T PUT STRIPES ON A ZEBRA LEOPARD.
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From:byrneout
Date:July 19th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC)
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wiiiiiiiiii.
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From:ralpheman
Date:July 19th, 2006 01:39 am (UTC)

school my way...

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You are all wrong. This site rules. I am now motivated to make my own video to post. This is school (20 years ago) my way. :-)
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From:saint_buddha
Date:July 19th, 2006 01:41 am (UTC)
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With a $150 clothing budget for their daughter, no wonder her parents shop at Wal-mart. A smarter move would be to teach her how to invest that $150 a month.
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From:derspatchel
Date:July 19th, 2006 01:56 am (UTC)
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Nah, that takes a lot of time, and it's not very likely you'll win.
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From:ron_newman
Date:July 19th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)
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You'd prefer "Us media"? As in, "Us Tereyton smokers would rather fight than switch" ?
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From:jodied
Date:July 19th, 2006 02:09 am (UTC)
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How about "we in the media" or "the media"? I don't think he was taking issue with the pronoun itself, rather it's obnoxious-ness factor.
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From:derspatchel
Date:July 19th, 2006 02:32 am (UTC)
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This is definitely an attempt to coin a phrase involving the cashing in on the social networking site craze.

Like the Me Generation, only ... in media! And plural!
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From:derspatchel
Date:July 19th, 2006 02:38 am (UTC)
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Hey, I wouldn't mind seeing these marketing goons with black eyes...
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From:dogofthefuture
Date:July 19th, 2006 08:04 am (UTC)
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I notice that pretty much everyone has focused on that "$150 monthly clothes budget" thing, much as I did. Because WHAT THE FUCK! Also, though, I think the girl in the article is lying about how much she spends on clothes every month. I believe that because I have to believe that.
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From:sandrylene
Date:July 20th, 2006 12:44 pm (UTC)
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Nah - if you shopped at Abercrombie you'd *need* to spend $150/mo or else you'd be going to school naked. I mean, fifty five bucks is a shirt, ten dollars'll get you a pair of socks, fifteen for undies, fifty for a bra, and actually you'd better forget about pants 'til next month.
From:dcart
Date:July 19th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)
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I wish I had a $150 per month clothing allowance.

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