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Mike Rowe Answers The Reaction To His Wal-Mart Ad


We’re not going to do a whole lot of analysis to this, because it’s long enough and Rowe is as articulate and straightforward a guy as there is. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where he’s coming from.

We will set this up a little, though – over the weekend Rowe did the voiceover to a Wal-Mart commercial announcing that they’ll be buying $250 billion in American-made products over the next 10 years, which is a head-on response to the criticism of the company that it’s flooding the American marketplace with Chinese-made goods. As Rowe has been crusading for Americans to return to the skilled trades and make things again, he’s a terrific guy to be the voice of the ad.

And this is the ad…

So it hits the airwaves, and there’s a sizable response. Most of what we saw was very positive; Rowe’s crusade for the benefit of blue-collar work has been extremely well received by people across the political spectrum and it’s hard to complain about Wal-Mart’s decision to buy American.

But there were detractors. And here was Rowe’s handling of them, which we found to be interesting reading. Enjoy…

Last night during the Olympics, a commercial started running called “I Am a Factory.” It’s part of a larger campaign sponsored by Walmart, called “Work Is a Beautiful Thing.” The commercial features real people doing real work in real factories all across America. It’s not very glamorous, but it’s honest and authentic, and I was honored to narrate it.

Today, I see that some people are calling for my head. Other’s want me to run for office. And some have demanded the surgical removal of my vocal cords. What better way to spend a rainy Sunday than by responding to a few?

Let’s start with Kevin Groce.

“Mike – Walmart was the last thing I would ever think you would do anything for! Why?

Hi Kevin,

That’s easy. Walmart has committed to purchase 250 billion dollars of American made products over the next decade. In essence, that’s a purchase order made out to the USA for a quarter of a trillion dollars. That means dozens of American factories are going to reopen all over the country. Millions of dollars will pour straight into local economies, and hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing positions will need to be filled. That’s a massive undertaking packed with enormous challenges, and I want to help. I want to see them succeed. Don’t you? Honestly Kevin, who gives a crap about your feelings toward Walmart? Who gives a crap about mine? Isn’t this the kind of initiative we can all get behind?

“I’ve looked up to you for the longest time. What happened to your support of the underdogs? Sad times Mike.”

Be strong, Kevin. I’m flattered that you’ve looked up to me in the past. Hopefully, I’ll redeem myself in the future. But I’ve never supported the “underdog” simply because they’re not the favorite. Size might matter in some pursuits, (I’ve been assured it does,) but in business, there’s nothing inherently good about being small, and nothing inherently bad about being big. My foundation supports skilled labor, American manufacturing, entrepreneurial risk, a solid work ethic, and personal responsibility. We reward these qualities wherever we find them, whether they’re in David or Goliath.

Deepwater
Feb. 8, 2014 at 3:11pm
“God bless you, Mike Rowe! And now brace yourselves for the squealing from the libs who are constantly trashing Walmart.”

I am braced, Deepwater. But to be fair, I’m friendly with lots of liberals who support this initiative with great enthusiasm. And I know some conservatives who look at this campaign with great skepticism. I don’t blame them. I think anything on television, especially a commercial with a big claim delivered by a professional spokesman should always be questioned. But if the country can’t get behind a program like this, I’m afraid we are all well and truly screwed.

Romeapple
Feb. 8, 2014 at 5:00pm
It’s hypocrisy. WalMart’s products are all made in China. WalMart contributes to those empty factories. What’s so “powerful” about an ad that makes absolutely no sense?”

That’s not entirely accurate, Romeapple. There’s a lot of merchandise currently in Walmart that’s manufactured right here in the USA – (including Dirty Jobs Cleaning Products.) But let’s assume – for the purpose of conversation – that Walmart did get every single item from China. Wouldn’t you like to see that change? Watch the ad again. Walmart is promising to buy 250 billion dollars of American made stuff and put it on their shelves. Whatever else you might think of the company, can you really root against an initiative like that? Let me ask it another way. Do you really think America has any hope of reinvigorating our manufacturing base without support from the biggest retailer in the world?

Pat Duffy
“I am uneasy about trusting Walmart to do the right things to better serve this country and its people but if you think they’ll change I hope your right.”

We’ll see, Pat. But there’s a reason for optimism, which ironically, is the same reason for your uneasiness. Remember, this is Walmart making the claim. They have to make good on it, because if they’re blowing smoke, their detractors will eat them alive. I believe this thing is going to happen because they are completely out of the closet with it. Walmart is going to buy a quarter trillion dollars of American made goods in the next ten years and put those goods on their shelves. The only question is whether or not Americans will support that effort. If they do, we just might be looking at a stimulus that actually stimulates something.

Rose Marie Bayless writes -

“Dear Mike – There’s only one little problem with your new commercial for Walmart….and that is that they do NOT provide manufacturing jobs.”

Hi Rose. You’re correct – Walmart doesn’t “provide” manufacturing jobs. Mostly because they’re not a manufacturing company. They’re a retailer. They buy all sorts of things from all sorts of suppliers all over the world, which they then sell to millions of Americans. In fact, 60% of all Americans shop there. That’s why Walmart is so successful. And that’s why they can do a great deal to encourage their suppliers to manufacture goods domestically. That’s what this initiative is all about – a financial commitment to buy from American suppliers.

“Hey, I am on your side here, I want “made in America” too but make you’re sure on the side of the WORKER not the corporate greed side ok Mike? Love ya.”

Love ya back, Rose, but no thanks. You offer up a false and dangerous choice. The world is bigger than “Workers vs. Bosses,” and so is this campaign. Remember, Walmart thrives because a majority of Americans like to shop there. Like Apple, Discovery, Ford, and Facebook, Walmart does not exist for the purpose of employing people. No successful company does. Walmart’s first order of business is to serve their customer. Ultimately, the customer calls the shots. Not management. Not labor. Jobs are just a happy consequence of that success.

Sean Murray says,

“I thought you were good person. But I just saw your AD that WAL-MART paid for. Your a corporate suck, Rowe.”

Well hi there, Sean. From “good person” to corporate suck in 60 seconds! That’s gotta be a record! Let me explain something. Better sit down, as the truth may shock you. Ready? I make my living on commercial television. Not television. COMMERCIAL television.

That means I appear in television shows with commercials, paid for by corporations. I also produce television shows with commercials, paid for by corporations. I sometimes narrate television shows with commercials, paid for by corporations. And occasionally, I appear in the television commercials themselves, also paid for by corporations. No matter what your job is Sean, if you work in commercial television, the money all flows from the same place. And no – it’s not the advertisers or the corporations that pay the bills. It’s you, Sean. The viewer. Just like the customer in a Walmart, the viewer on the sofa programs the airwaves by deciding what to watch and what to buy. In other words, you’re the boss.

Don’t get me wrong – I would never imply that your decision to watch a Corporate Spectacle like the International Olympic Games on a Global Network owned by one of the largest Conglomerates on Planet Earth makes you a “corporate suck.” But I might wonder – given the purity of your own position – why you ever liked me in the first place.

(To be fair, I got my start on a home shopping channel, selling crap in the middle of the night to a narcoleptic crowd of nocturnal lonely-hearts, so I’ve had 25 years to get comfortable with the parasitical nature of my professional identity. Perhaps you’re just getting started?)

onceaprouddemocrat
Feb. 8, 2014 at 7:04pm
Work is a beautiful thing, for those people in this country that still have any pride in the themselves. It seems that pride has become something that no one is allowed to show any more. Accomplishment also has disappeared from view.

I think you’re right, onceproud. Most portrayals of work gravitate to one extreme or the other. Dream Jobs and Dangerous Jobs make better TV that Normal Jobs. With Dirty Jobs, I got lucky. We featured regular, hardworking people, covered with crap, but happy in their work. There was no talk about jobs being “good or bad.” The people on Dirty Jobs saw work as an opportunity, and they took pride in what they did. I loved that. This spot reminded me of the people I met on my show. I was struck by how familiar they looked. I guess that’s what happens when you cast real people…

ComingUnglued
Feb. 8, 2014 at 4:41pm
“Walmart can be a hero here. Just do it! I’ll shop there when they do! We want everything clean and nice. No dirty manufacturing for us, no stinky farms. Wake up America, where are your dirty manufacturing jobs now, overseas that’s where. Where are all the farms? Where is your food coming from? Overseas, check the labels in the grocery stores.”

You’re right, Unglued. Walmart can change the game. But the business of filling a few hundred thousand new factory jobs is not a slam dunk. Because in spite of high unemployment, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs currently exist that no one seems to want. That little piece of the narrative doesn’t get a lot of press, but it should. Because the skills gap is real, and it’s a mistake to assume that people will line up to take jobs that so many people love to disparage.

One of the real disconnects around this issue for me has been the steady drumbeat of unemployment in the headlines. I know that the labor participation rate is at historic lows. I know that millions are out of work. But I also know that I’ve seen Help Wanted signs in all 50 states. Even at the height of the recession, the employers I met on Dirty Jobs were all hiring. They still are. And they all told me the same thing – the biggest challenge of running a business was finding people who were willing to learn a new skill and work hard.

I like this campaign because at it’s heart, it portrays hard work as something dignified and decent. Lot’s of people will criticize these spots as nothing but PR. But PR matters. A lot. Because right now, people are disconnected from the part of our workforce that still makes things. We can’t reinvigorate the trades until we agree and understand the importance of buying American. Again – who can be against that?

truthseekerusa
Feb. 8, 2014 at 11:54pm
“Mike is a man of integrity so if he appears in an ad like this something good will follow. Instead of griping send a few dollars to the scholarship fund that Mike sponsors that sends young Americans to trade schools so they can earn a living instead of living off the government.”

Thanks Truthseeker. Nice of you to say. At the risk of a Shameless Plug, allow me to second your suggestion.

The mikeroweWORKS Foundation is in the business of training people for jobs that currently exist, while challenging the whole notion that “bad jobs” are the cause of our countries troubles. We’re currently awarding Work Ethic Scholarships in conjunction with a number of Trade Schools all over the country, and I’d like to use my Foundation as a way to help workforce development in the towns where these factories are going to be reopened. For Walmart to get more American made goods on it’s shelves, a lot of people are going to need a lot of training in all kinds of manufacturing positions. I’d love to be a part of that.

To be clear, I am not the official voice of this campaign. But I would be. In a heartbeat. That’s why I agreed to narrate the first spot. Not as a spokesman for Walmart. But as a fan of what they’re trying to do.

navycorpsman1
Feb. 8, 2014 at 7:36pm
“Mike Rowe will soon get a visit by the FBI, ATF, get audited by the IRS, get issued fines of a $1,000,000 by OSHA, and be deemed a terrorist by the TSA.”

Oy. So much for “non-identified voiceover.”

Teresa Ann Isaacs
“I just saw your Walmart ad. I love it. I don’t understand other people’s criticisms. I think it’s a broad step that this country desperately needs.”

Hi Teresa – The criticism I think has something to do with cognitive dissonance. People get confused when they here something they agree with from someone they dislike.

Likewise, people are often blind to bad ideas when they come from someone they admire. For some people, Walmart is the devil. It’s a company that embodies everything that’s wrong with our country. They simply can’t get their head around the fact that they are suddenly in agreement with them.

Sean Murray’s not done with me. He writes again,

“Misguided. Mike Rowe should have never done this ad due to the fact it came from WalMart. I like the message, but Walmart is one of the reasons a lot of manufacturing was lost in the United States. The vast majority of merchandise Walmart sells in the U.S. is manufactured abroad. The company searches the world for the cheapest goods possible, and this means buying from low-wage factories overseas. Walmart boasts of direct relationships with nearly 20,000 Chinese suppliers, and purchased $27 billion worth of Chinese-made goods in 2006. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Walmart’s trade with China alone eliminated 133,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs between 2001 and 2006 and accounted for 11.2 percent of the nation’s total job loss due to trade. With $419 billion in annual net sales, Walmart’s market power is so immense that blah, blah, blah…”

Forgive me Sean, but I’ve replaced the rest of your rant with “blah blah blah” because it appears to have been cut and pasted word for word from a political site dedicated to destroying Walmart. And also because reactions like yours are the reason our country is paralyzed. You’re like the diehard conservatives who freaked out because I sat too close to Bill Maher, and the diehard liberals that got all bent when I got too close to Glenn Beck. You’re stuck in your own narrative.

Step back for a minute. Look at what’s happening here. Walmart has just promised to do something you claim to want them to do. How do you react? Do you encourage them? Do you support them? No. You hold fast to the the party line. You lash out. Our country is falling apart around us, and you criticize me. For what? For doing a voiceover on a commercial that celebrates the dignity of hard work? I realize you’d prefer it if Costco was pushing this campaign forward, but guess what – they’re not.

But, maybe they will? Maybe they’ll all get on board? Target, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Dollar General, Home Depot, Lowe’s…maybe they’ll all make similar commitments to American manufacturing? And maybe Americans will finally make it easy by demanding and buying more American made products. So far – that hasn’t happened. Maybe Walmart will break the logjam. Someone has to at least try, don’t you think?

Seriously Sean, do you and all the other detractors really want to see this campaign fail because it’s coming from a retailer whose policies you don’t approve of? Do us all a favor – try to get over it. Try to get over your disappointment with me. Try to get over your disappointment with Walmart. Try to get past your issues with the messenger, and take another look at the message…

A quarter trillion dollar commitment to American made products. 250,000 new jobs.

Really – what’s not to like?

Happy Sunday to you all…

Mike


4 Comments

  1. Tom Shelton says:

    I like Mike Rowe also, but when I think about companies that have aggressively moved purchases to another country for the next quarter's bottom line Wal Mart is at the top of the list. I really, really would not believe their PR release until I see it happening. Sales are probably down because so much is now produced in China that it is impacting US consumers ability to buy. For that Wally World gets what it deserves

  2. Bill Toohey says:

    Wal-Mart is spending Billions to bring jobs back to the United States, Are these the jobs that they were so instrumental in forcing overseas in the first place by their aggressively driving the cost of labor down to the point that American workers could no longer compete and still feed their families?

  3. Kermit Hoffpauir says:

    WalMart had made big moves to selling products from the USA back in the late 80 and well into the 90's by investing actual capital to prop up U.S. manufacturers, especially toolmakers and garment industry. Looks like they are getting back to that, and for good economic reason as well.

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