I talk a lot about authenticity here. That’s because the best stories, the most compelling storytelling has truth and authenticity at its’ core. It’s not always enough for something to be true, it also has to ring true. That’s a hard lesson to live by.. . I remember many years ago working on an ad, we put a number in there for some fact or another, the number was 100% abosultely true, but it was so large, it just felt… unbelievable. We ended up taking it out because it required too much of the viewer.
I’m all for pushing viewers, not catering to the lowest common denominator as so many ads (political and otherwise) do these days, but you also have to know your audience, and understand their mindset. Like I’ve said before, it’s a fine line between stupid and clever.
(The Walmart video has several videos all about the same in message and emotion.)
Walmart and JC Penny, both trying to convey a mea culpa of sorts. Walmart of course trying to make themselves something other than the huge behemoth crushing local business and wages, a comapny that treats it’s employees as cheaply as its products. JC Penny fresh off trying to transform itself with Ron Johnson, who ran the Apple stores for so many years, facing falling stock prices and sales.
Both comapnies deserve credit for confronting the elephant in the room, and realizing that they have issues, that shouldn’t be ignored. The question about both of these ads are they authentic in any way?
Is JC Penny really sorry? Are they sorry for not listening or because their changes failed to draw more customers?
Is Walmart really the great place to work and shop they say it is? Just because they say it with happy music and happy customers (and employees) does that make it true?
There’s a story my mom tells… One day the phone rang, my dad answered. “Mr Strasberg,” the voice on the other line asked,”We’re calling for President Nixon….”
“Yes,” my dad answered unphased.
“Yes, we were hoping you could help us with a problem… We’d like you to help us make the President look truthful.”
“I see,” said my dad, “Well, that’s easy, if you want to make the President truthful, then have him tell the truth.”
This is the essential problem with both these ads, and all ads like these ones. The truth speaks for itself. Trust is earned, truth can’t just be created it has to be bought, not with money or air time, but with hard authentic work. There’s no short cut to truth except truth itself. I think both JC Penny and Walmart are going to find this lesson out the hard way.