Aerospace Ads Were No Coincidence
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.
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