US Megabrands Refute Critics With Ad Campaigns

17 January 2005

Those popular consumerist dartboards, the supermarket industry and Big Pharma - as respectively personified by Wal-Mart and Eli Lilly - are hitting back at their legions of critics via major advertising campaigns.

Wal-Mart, the globe's largest retailer, has for long been condemned for its alleged pythonlike squeezing of staff and suppliers, to say nothing of its promotional tactics, unfair local competition and anti-union stance.

So concerned is the titan at the deterioration of its image among the public and investors alike, it launched an ad campaign last week in upmarket newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal. This took the form of an 'open letter' from WM president Lee Scott, who opined it was time the Great American Public heard the "unfiltered truth".

Said Scott in an accompanying statement that shamelessly paraphrased the former president of General Motors, Charles E Wilson: "Facts are facts. Wal-Mart is good for consumers, good for communities and good for the US economy."

The ads claim that Wal-Mart will create over ten thousand new US jobs in 2005. The company also avers that its average hourly pay rate is almost twice the national minimum wage of $5.15 (€3.93; £2.75); also that staff are offered health and life insurance, company stock and a retirement plan.

  • Meantime, Eli is painting itself Lilly-white, arguably with more justification than Wal-Mart - in that the main plank of the pharma giant's defense is supported by the US Food and Drug Administration.

    The pharmaceutical company's chief executive Sidney Taurel also adopted an 'open letter' approach, launched last week in a series of ads in major US newspapers.

    These refute an article in the conservative and respected British Medical Journal which charged the company with concealing research that associated its anti-depressant drug Prozac with suicidal and violent tendencies.

    The 'letter' rebuts the BMJ article which, Taurel complains, "needlessly spread fear among patients who take Prozac".

    He continued: "It was simply wrong to suggest that information on Prozac was missing, or that important research data on the benefits and possible side effects of the drug were not available to doctors and regulators."

    Clutching the same hymnsheet, Lilly's chief medical officer Alan Breier rejected the BMJ article as "false and misleading", insisting that the documents it referred to were actually created by officials at the FDA and presented to an internal meeting in 1991.

    FDA medical advisors have since agreed the claims were based on faulty data and that there was no increased risk of suicide.

    Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff