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Aerospace Ads Were No Coincidence

By Andy Alexander

Some readers have contacted me about full-page ads for Boeing and Lockheed Martin in Sunday’s Outlook section, which focused on the 40th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. One caller said it was “more than coincidence” that the section’s two largest advertisements would come from the aerospace giants. Another said he was certain that Boeing and Lockheed Martin had been “tipped off” that Outlook was planning to write about space exploration.

They’re both right. It wasn’t coincidence. And the companies were told in advance. It’s also nothing new. And there’s no evidence that any ethical barrier was breached.

“There is nothing unusual or sinister about advertisers being informed of an upcoming special report or feature that is focused on a topic of interest to them,” said Marc Rosenberg, The Post’s manager of corporate and public policy advertising. He said The Post has “been doing this for years, offering advertisers the opportunity to put their messages into special reports” on everything from presidential inaugurations to golf tournaments to wedding planning to seasonal travel to the Super Bowl.

“The only thing new here is that Outlook has begun to do themed issues,” Rosenberg said. “When they do so, the advertising department is given advance notice and we, in turn, inform selected advertisers – those who might be assumed to have an interest in the topic – of the upcoming opportunity.”

But, he said, that’s all they’re told. “We do not tell advertisers anything more than the fact that there will be a themed issue on a particular topic on a specific day," he said.

Although no aerospace industry ads were paired with the Apollo pieces on the Post Web site, ad innovations manager Matt Haverkamp said that online policies are the same as in print: advertisers are sometimes given a heads up about themed coverage, though they are given only a “generic” description and “they can’t control content.”

Because advertisers aren't allowed to see stories in advance, they can’t shape the coverage. Rosenberg noted that when the Post produced a special report last year on the 50th anniversary of NASA, including advertising from aerospace firms, it was “rather critical of NASA and their contractors.”

Indeed, one of the stories in Sunday’s “Space Issue” was critical of NASA’s ability to lead space exploration and argued that smaller, private companies may be better positioned than the aerospace giants to produce new spacecraft.

Today, the story said, “a succession of corporate buyouts and takeovers has left just two contenders, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, that have the heft and experience required for building the big, beefy spacecraft NASA will need for any future moonshots. NASA cannot innovate radical new rocket technologies while it is so dependent on a couple of huge corporations with an interest in protecting their investments and infrastructure dedicated to old shuttles.”

Last week’s “Science Times” section of The New York Times also focused on the Apollo 11 anniversary and included a full-page ad from Lockheed Martin.

By Andy Alexander  | July 21, 2009; 7:12 PM ET
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Yes, well, if the NYT is also doing it, then I'm reassured no ethical lines were crossed.

Posted by: TeddySanFran | July 22, 2009 3:51 AM | Report abuse

Why are you so apologetic Andrew? There is nothing wrong with such ad placement, especially in an opinion section or some special section commemorating a military victory (Ford Triplane, We Were There For America in WWII) or other special events.

People can believe the foolish commentators or they can believe the full page paid ads of the aerospace giants. Both probably are of equal value.

It is not as though you place lawyer and funeral home ads next to each accident story.

Posted by: krush01 | July 22, 2009 4:58 AM | Report abuse

We get the idea that your business has evolved beyond simple reporting. Themed reporting, features, and special reports are no doubt included because of their special attractiveness to advertisers and readers. Without them we have no Post.

Just today you published an op-ed by Kathleen Parker wondering why the Cronkite era of "avuncular" journalism had passed on.

She says, "Our nostalgia for his passing isn't only for the death of a familiar and mostly admired individual, but also for a certain kind of man -- an iconic reminder of a time when fathers knew best and the media were on the home team."

So why does she think the media is not "on the home team" anymore? Is there a connection here? The Post is just a business and we readers must remember that.

Posted by: Neal3 | July 22, 2009 5:29 AM | Report abuse

An ad's an ad, and everyone can see it's an ad. This doesn't bother me.

Posted by: tresangelas | July 22, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I liked the helicopter that flew across the screen. That was last year and the ads seem more boring this year. The CIA ad popped up a bad security certificate warning earlier in the week, which seemed strange.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 23, 2009 6:50 PM | Report abuse

You need liquor in the morning guys. Maybe you have doubts about this or that. The tables keep on turning so what can you do? Post Liquor Ads. Show me a woman with no vices and I'll show you one with no virtues. You could really use the revenues and we readers could really use a stiff drink. Perfect match.

When I made the promise I had no idea what the cost of keeping it would be and it cost me everything and the stakes keep going up. The bottles keep going down though. It's no coincidence. Just numbers and family traditions keep a good thing going.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 24, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Post Music
Need a music store here. I was thinking itunes killer. 66 cents a tune for music lovers. 99 is too much.

Posted by: Dermitt | July 27, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

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