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Rob Maguire's blog

October 18, 2007 Weblog:

Wal-Mart's Facebook Ghost Signals Need for Ad Policy


Tightly trapped in cellophane, a pixelated ghost looks more like a desperate prisoner than a spooky sweet. In the latest move of their Facebook marketing strategy, Wal-Mart has branded a digital ghost cookie with their logo, creating a free "gift" that Facebook users may send to their friends. Clicking the cookie brings you to Wal-Mart's halloween website.

Unlike the usual crop of virtual gifts available to users of the social network, the Wal-Mart ghost screams of crass marketing, and critics are skeptical of whether this approach will earn the beast of Bentonville any dividends. The e-commerce site Get Elastic has gone so far as to call the ghost a "terrible social media marketing tactic", arguing that Facebook users "know intrusive advertising when they see it."

Among the reactions to the branded gift, however, is little discussion on whether Facebook should be accepting advertising from Wal-Mart in the first place, whose long standing record of human rights violations led the Norwegian government to completely divest from the company earlier this year. Aside from a predictable piece by Wal-Mart Watch, much of the debate related to the ethical issues at stake is taking place on Facebook itself.

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