Wal-Mart Ad Celebrates American Workers With Song From Canadian Band

Earlier 'Dirty Jobs' host Mike Rowe reported death threats

Wal-Mart 'Working Man' ad
By Aaron Taube

In response to a barrage of criticism of its low wages and fierce opposition to unionization, Wal-Mart has been running a high-profile advertising campaign to promote its recent pledge to purchase $250 billion of American-made products over the next 10 years. Already, one of the ads created turbulence for the company when former "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe announced he had received death threats for providing a voiceover proclaiming that "work is a beautiful thing."

Because Rowe has made his career documenting people's unpleasant working conditions, some felt it was hypocritical for him to promote the cause of America's most infamous (and largest) private employer.

Now there is another contradiction in a different ad from the same campaign, one that celebrates American manual laborers.

That ad, titled "Working Man," features a montage of men and women laboring in industrial settings set to Rush's 1974 hit "Working Man." At the end, white text appears on a blue background to declare, "Over the next ten years, we're pledging $250 billion to products purchased from American factories. And honoring the men and women who make them."



As many have pointed out, Rush was strange choice of soundtrack for an ad celebrating American manufacturing given that the band is not just Canadian, but famously Canadian. Wal-Mart responded to these concerns on Twitter by saying that despite the origin of the band that made it, "Working Man" is "a classic" and "the best fit" for its jobs campaign.

@Notteham Working Man is a classic & we felt it best fit our jobs effort. We also support many U.S. bands in our ads. -Moni - Walmart (@Walmart) February 19, 2014

But what's really perverse about the ad, created by the agency Saatchi & Saatchi X, is that the actual lyrics to "Working Man" tell the story of a man who is not celebrating his work, but rather expressing a profound sadness about his condition as a wage laborer.

"I got no time for livin'. Yes, I'm working all the time," the first verse says. In the chorus, the first-person narrative continues: "It seems to me I could live my life a lot better than I think I am. I guess that's why they call me, they call me the working man."

Indeed, the protagonist seems to be saying "the working man" is best defined as someone resigned to a life of thinking things could be better if only the demands of his job provided a little more "time for livin'." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Wal-Mart's "work is a beautiful thing" theory.

(And, of course, Rush's members are famously fans of libertarian author Ayn Rand, who was not best-known for her workers' rights stance.)

Here are the complete lyrics:
I get up at seven, yeah
And I go to work at nine
I got no time for livin'
Yes, I'm workin' all the time

[Chorus:] It seems to me I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am
I guess that's why they call me
They call me the working man
They call me the working man
I guess that's what I am

I get home at five o'clock
And I take myself out a nice, cold beer
Always seem to be wonderin'
Why there's nothin' goin' down here

[Chorus] Well, they call me the working man
I guess that's what I am

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