The giant retailer started airing ads on 14 metro radio stations 1/10 blasting City Council members two days before the City Council is scheduled to hold a hearing examining the potential impact of a Walmart on the city. Walmart and some of its key backers have decided not to testify at the hearing, arguing they won’t get a fair hearing. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is an outspoken critic of the retailer, reported Crain’s New York. Councilman Charles Barron is also an outspoken opponent who represents the East New York neighborhood where Walmart is considering space. They think it would have the same impact as other critics have voiced—destroying small local businesses.
The City Council is expected to blast Walmart at the oversight hearing, so Walmart’s effort is a bit of a pre-counter attack that also includes print, online, and direct mailings that focused largely on jobs. Opponents of Walmart signed up to testify include the head of the retail workers union; a professor from the University of Illinois at Chicago who argues Walmart’s Chicago store did not create jobs; and a lobbyist for the Gristedes supermarket chain.
The radio ad blasts “special interest” groups for pressuring the City Council to derail its efforts to open up a store in the city. “Turn down new jobs and stop people from paying lower prices to satisfy some special interest?” the 60-second spot asks. “That’s everything people hate about politics.” That ad, and a second one, zeroes in more on the retailers’ low prices, will run for a week on stations including WFAN, WCBS and WINS. A print ad details the results of a recent Walmart-sponsored poll showing 71% of New Yorkers favor the retailer’s entry into the city will run in 30 community newspapers, plus the Daily News and New York Post.
Walmart also said it will start sending direct mail to residents of 10 City Council districts with the strategy focusing on opening in areas where unemployment is high and fresh food options are low. “Some New Yorkers have plenty of options when it comes to shopping,” the mailer reads. “We think you should too!”
All of the ads direct New Yorkers to WalmartNYC.com, a website that seeks to build a community of supporters. The site includes various facts and figures about Walmart, a petition and select media coverage of the retailer. A series of videos show local residents speaking on the cause and rallying in support for a new Walmart, saying it creates jobs and brings affordable groceries to their neighborhood:
RBR-TVBR observation: It’s good to see the retailer using the radio medium as the centerpiece of its advocacy effort. The quick creative turnaround and ability to get those spots on the air right away was likely one of the reasons. And you’ll notice–the campaign started in morning drive, when may are listening to weather and traffic, preparing for their commutes. Certainly, the NYC City Council should be invited to do the same.