- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

Jet fighters are still cool, even if it has been 15 years since Tom Cruise went up against Val Kilmer in "Top Gun."
That's the message from Boeing Co. in its latest effort to pitch its version of the Joint Strike Fighter to the Department of Defense. Boeing is competing with Lockheed Martin for the contract at as much as $750 billion the largest defense contract in history that will be awarded Oct. 26.
"No maybes," says the television ad. "The real facts. The real deal."
Lockheed Martin officials have their own marketing campaign.
"We have been producing our nation's fighters for half a century. And that's a matter of fact," reads one print ad featuring an up-close photo of a fighter cockpit.
Officials at the Bethesda company say they are selling not just their version of the jet, but also the management team behind it.
Boeing and Lockheed Martin entered into the competition in 1996 to build and fly the Joint Strike Fighter, a supersonic plane capable of taking off and landing vertically like a helicopter.
The Pentagon will award a record-setting contract worth as much as $750 billion to one of the companies on Oct. 26. The jets will be used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as Britain's Royal Navy.
Winning the contract would be a big boost for Boeing, the world's largest producer of commercial jets. The company announced it would cut 30,000 jobs after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when airlines were forced to cut flights.
But spokesman Randy Harrison said Boeing's recent financial struggles don't make winning the contract a greater priority because it was "already priority number one."
The print ads from Boeing companies have appeared in various defense-oriented publications, including Defense News, Air Force Magazine and Sea Power, as well as The Washington Post. Its television ads run during Sunday morning political talk shows, and in the evenings on CNN and MSNBC. Radio advertisements have appeared on WTOP-AM and other news stations in the metropolitan area. Boeing reps said the advertising campaign has achieved greater buzz than the jet itself.
"I am stunned by the amount of interest in the advertising of the program," said Randy Harrison, spokesman for Boeing's JSF program.
Lockheed Martin has done much of the same, resuming a three-day-a-week campaign Monday in major newspapers and some defense trade publications. But much of Lockheed Martin's most recent advertising hasn't been product-oriented. The company ceased all product advertising after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In the weeks following the attacks, Lockheed Martin filled the airwaves and publications with advertisements honoring those who died. Lockheed Martin logos were small, if present at all. The company is still running a salute to the U.S. troops overseas, featuring an American flag and bald eagle.
Boeing suspended all product advertising for two weeks following the attacks.
The effectiveness of these type of ads is not clear, but the companies claim they wouldn't put forth the effort and spend the money if they weren't.
Lockheed Martin spokes-man Jim Fetig said his company believes targeted advertisements to military personnel and Defense officials could spark at least a small wave of pressure on the Defense Department to choose one company over another. In addition, he said the ads are a way to convey messages that are often obscured by other means.
"They're trying to get public opinion on their side. That's what it's all about," said Cary Hatch, president of MDB Communications, an advertising firm in the District. The ads also could affect the thinking of defense officials if they seek to ride the tide of patriotism in America.
Analysts said these types of campaigns are often ways to simply publicize the company and remove the contractor's cloak of anonymity.
"Boeing has really just been involved in a branding campaign for everything they do," said Joseph Nadol, an analyst with J.P. Morgan Chase.

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