Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Walmart Crosses the Line

I found a very interesting post on the Marketing VOX Blog about a controversial Walmart microsite called Toyland where animated Elves encourage consumers (most likely children) to select Walmart's new toys for Christmas. According to the blog, the consumer group Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood is outraged saying that "Walmart is ruthlessly coming between parents and children and actively encouraging kids to nag for their holiday gifts." Children do not need their parents permission to enter the site so they can spend an unlimited amount of time being exposed to Walmart's cool new toys.

I visited Toyland and it is full of bright colors and exciting animations. Before the microsite loads, you are on a fast paced journey to Toyland through the perspective of a child on a ride of some sort. Once the site has loaded, you are in Santa's Workshop greeted by two cool modern looking elves, Wally and Marty, who wear hooded sweatshirts and headphones. They present the consumer with new toys that are available and give the option of clicking yes or no. If the consumer chooses to add the toy to their wishlist, the elves applaud them. If they reject the toy, the elves complain that they will be out of a job and it gets sent to the dump truck.

Walmart defends their microsite saying that Toyland is the same thing as a wishlist written on paper. However, websites such as Internet Retailer and strongly oppose the idea. I believe in the idea of balance: Walmart should not be required to shut down their microsite, but they should take some responsibility and require a parent's permission to enter the site.


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