2009 Winner

WalMart Hannah Montana ad

WalMart "Hannah Montana Rock Star"

by Annie Carson
Quality Schools International
Chengdu, People's Republic of China
(Hometown: Chandler, AZ)

Located in an “In Touch” magazine filled with celebrities, bikini bodies, and makeup tips, this print ad for Walmart’s Hannah Montana clothes may seem rather out of place. Through carefully constructed images and timing, this seemingly cute and innocent ad targets preteen girls with the intent of linking the girly pink world to a lifestyle of glamour and sex. Along with the latest Hannah Montana T-shirt, Walmart and Disney aim to sell a glamorous lifestyle that can be fulfilled with their products.

Designed to appeal to the fantasies of young girls, the ad’s beanbag, box, poster, and clothes are all Hannah Montana style. Both models in the ad have expressions of joy – the laughing girl jumping up in front of the mirror wears a Hannah Montana shirt and the mom grins widely, eyes squeezed shut, while hugging a purple Hannah Montana shirt to her chest. Subtle but distinct, a Walmart bag lies on the bed. Three logos – “Hannah Montana,” “Disney,” and “Disney Channel” surround Hannah Montana stretched out on the standard blue Walmart strip at the bottom. Opposite is ‘Walmart’ above ‘Save money. Live better.’ The heading caption says “Pick up plenty of great Hannah Montana clothes and gear for amazing prices. And send your daughter to school feeling like a rock star.” Below the picture: “Walmart is your Hannah Montana headquarters. Pick up all the fashion, the gear and the music for fantastic prices, in time for school. Mom, you rock!” The aesthetic purpose of the ad is to interest preteen girls with the flashy, glamorous scene and key phrases such as “rock star,” “amazing prices,” and “you rock.”

The ad incorporates many persuasive techniques to attract young girls, such as association, symbols, celebrity, warm and fuzzy, intensity, and simple solution. By displaying Disney symbols, Walmart gains the repute of association with Disney and the celebrity Hannah Montana. The persuasion technique intensity is used to describe prices as “amazing” and “fantastic.”  Warm and fuzzy is used by showing the mom’s happiness for the daughter, which linked with “Mom, you rock!” implies that the two have a good relationship. The ad appears to be written to parents – the text “send your daughter to school feeling like a rock star,” includes the subtext that parents make their kids happy by buying them stuff. The ad is constructed to set a model of materialistic happiness and promote the expectation of parents fulfilling a child’s happiness while providing the simple solution of products.

Along with values about child-parent relationship and happiness, the portal Walmart uses to target pre-teen girls is unethical. Walmart advertises their Disney products in an edition of “In Touch Weekly” that flaunts “The 69 Sexiest Bodies on the Beach,” the persuasive allure of beautiful people, on the front cover. The advertisement is nestled among pages composed of testimonials by celebrities and models selling fashion, perfection, glamour, shallow relationships, and sex - all tied to a product. Through the ad, young girls will recognize their place in the magazine while passively absorbing the values. The implication of the ad’s timing is that young 'rock star' girls who love Hannah Montana and Disney should grow up into glamorous teenagers with great bikini bodies.

As media constructs our reality, what Walmart and Disney are selling to young girls through this advertisement and its context is a desire for a lifestyle that pursues glamour, perfection, and sex – a lifestyle that these corporations can fulfill with products. This ad is detrimental to preteen girls and young women as it imposes a specific model of materialistic happiness that can only be satisfied by products.