Getting into Wal-Mart has long been seen as a Holy Grail for getting comics in front of a wider audience, but encroachments have been sparse and experimental. Concerns over content, and other distribution problems have left comics in the retailing behemoth’s doghouse. However, it seems they think comics are fine for their own world conquest plans. Buried in this interesting story about Xmas toy retailing (Elmo XTREME?) is news that Wal-Mart is rolling out its own characters, Wally and Marty to draw kids to their website.
As for Wally and Marty, they will star in an upcoming 60-second, 3-D spot that will run in theaters this holiday season. They will also appear in TV spots and in a special comic book that will be sent to children who visit the Web site of the nation’s largest toy retailer. On their Web site, the elves promise to ship kids’ holiday wish lists to their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who can buy the desired toys at Wal-Mart. McCall says that the information collected from the site will also help Wal-Mart make better decisions about what kids want.
But are free comics just a tease to lure kids into a marketing scam?
Not everyone likes such Web sites, which end up gleaning consumer information from children. The activist group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is launching a letter-writing campaign asking Wal-Mart to close down the site. “Families have a hard enough time navigating holiday commercialism without the world’s largest retailer bypassing parents entirely and urging children to nag,” says Susan Linn, co-founder of the organization and also a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School.
Parents, what do YOU think? As long as Wally and Marty don’t eat their own shit, we’re staying mum.