Since debuting during the NFL playoffs on Sunday, the Walmart clown commercial has become something of an Internet sensation. It’s not hard to understand why, because, simply put, the Walmart clown commercial is hysterical. A father dresses up in a clown costume intending to bring a little joy into the lives of some children at a party, but accidentally jumps on a toy unicorn, and gets his foot punctured in the process. He screams in pain and, as a result, frightens the children, who then proceed to scream themselves and scatter away like frightened, well, children.
There is nothing offensive about the Walmart clown commercial. On paper, it may sound a bit creepy or macabre, but when you watch it, it doesn’t play that way at all. It’s rather ingenious, actually. Kids love clowns (think Bozo) and kids (many of them, anyway) kind of like to be frightened. What kid doesn’t like to hear a scary story? What kid doesn’t get some kind of perverse pleasure at seeing an adult jab his finger – or stub his toe? Walmart has used irony to great comic effect in its clown commercial, and it has really struck a chord.
Last summer, a phenomenon associated with Walmart also went viral on the Net. People of Walmart is a website that glorifies (or do they mock? Hmmm) some of the people who shop at the huge retail chain. Many of the people whose photos grace the site are somewhat overweight, wear T-shirts with suggestive slogans and look like their names might be Bubba, Tiny or Connie (you know, as in your aunt Connie with the big bosoms). They also look like they might enjoy Schlitz beer while working on classic American cars like ’57 chevys and muscle cars.
As far as clowns are concerned, I can think of a couple of other mega corporations who have successfully used a clown in their advertising. Ronald McDonald, the mascot for the McDonald’s fast-food restaurant chain, has been around since 1963, when he was first portrayed in a commercial by none other than Willard Scott. Scott, who also played the aforementioned Bozo the Clown on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C in the late 1950s, is now the preternaturally jovial weatherman on the “Today Show.”
And then, of course, there’s the Jack in the Box restaurant chain, whose mascot is also a clown. He is patterned after the jack-in-the-box toy.
So you see, clowns have been used as product pitchmen for some time. And now Walmart has come up with a clever way to use a clown in their advertising as well. You can’t argue with success.
Walmart Clown Commercial on YouTube, youtube.clom
Ronald McDonald, wikipedia.org