Radical Media Advert: A Values Dissonance

Posted by in Advertising, Alt Media

Radical Media is an advertising, marketing and production company known for, among other things, trademarking the term “radical media,” as well as threatening activists, artists and academics with lawsuits if they dare to use the term for public events. The only thing “radical” about the company is its departure from the term’s rich history of creating collaborative, reciprocal, accessible, participatory community-based media. Recently I came across an advert the company made for Walmart, starring Hans Zimmer.

In the advert, entitled “The Walmart Box” and directed by Hollywood filmmaker Nancy Meyers, Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer struggles in his home studio to find the right music to accompany film images on his multiple work screens. Clearly the soundtrack maestro, who has scored almost as many motion pictures as Walmart has destroyed communities, is having a creative block.

Outside the master’s room a bevy of musicians wait in the hall, instruments in hand, as they listen to his stilted piano keys never quite find the tune. As the hours pass a Walmart package is set on a chair in the studio, its bright blue tone striking a chord out of key with the rest of the dark browns and reds in the dimly lit room packed with instruments and furniture.

Then one of the musicians announces – “I’m goin’ in,” and puts down his drum. He quietly enters the room, sees and picks up the Walmart box, and begins tapping out an upbeat tempo. Zimmer hears, turns to smile, and in an act of inspired creative collaboration, finds the accompanying tune on the piano. The rest of the band rush in with instruments in hand, all smiling, and as they join Zimmer in the background, and text on screen read: “Inspiration. Where does it come from? Everywhere.”

This short video advertisement for one of the world’s worst human rights, labour and environmental abusing corporations, personifies a values disonnance so often seen in film and media, the bulk of which is quickly being devoured by large corporations with deep pockets.

Leaving aside Zimmer’s own reasons for choosing to do an advert for Walmart (the composer has an estimated net worth of $200 million USD), “The Walmart Box” absurdly juxtaposes resplendent creativity with a cardboard box likely containing cheap Chinese-manufactured bargain-basement products sold at Walmart. That Walmart wishes to associate with high-class, respected and talented creatives is part of a recent campaign by the behemoth to further entrench its base clientele, the middle class, and is meant to convey values the Arkansas-based company is far from embodying – the freedom of the creative spirit in this case. Walmart after all values bullying, price-gouging, torturous labour conditions, poisoned environments, monopoly capitalism and above all high profits at low (labour, human rights, environmental, community) costs. Hardly the stuff of collaborative creativity and transformative beauty.