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Christmas Cause Marketing from Lockheed Martin

Unless you subscribe to some publication like the Army Times or Aviation Week and Space Technology, or you frequent the Yellow or Blue lines of the Washington D.C. Metro subway on the Virginia side of the Potomac, chances are you don’t often see much advertising from military contractors. But this is Christmas. And to hear Lockheed Martin tell it, sometimes Santa himself needs their C-130 aircraft to see that needy kids have toys to play with come Christmas Day.

The ad features Lockheed Martin employees supporting Toys for Tots, a charitable effort of the US Marine Corp Reserve.

With revenues of $47 billion in 2010, Lockheed Martin is one of the largest defense contractors in the world with specialties in aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. On the left side of the ad you see a photo of a row of C-130s, which the company has produced since the 1950s.

Quoting a Mother Jones article, Wikipedia says that Lockheed received 7 percent of all the funds paid out by the Pentagon in 2009.

I don’t have a problem per se with defense contractors doing cause marketing or advertising their support of a cause like Toys for Tots. But I do wonder why they did it so poorly.

I found this ad in the Dec. 5 issue of Time magazine, not on a billboard face at one of the subway stops near the Pentagon. And yet to read it, you’d swear you were reading one of their dry B2B out-of-home ads that litter stops on the Blue and the Yellow lines.

For instance, the headline speaks of the call of ‘duty,’ which is powerful imagery in the military, but less so for readers of Time magazine, much less Joe Six-Pack.

The last sentence of the body copy may be the most telling: “Of all the missions our aircraft perform around the world, delivering holiday joy is definitely the happiest.”

(It must have taken all the self-restraint the Lockheed Martin copywriter had not to use the phrase ‘mission-critical’ in that sentence).

But the ad doesn’t really support the assertion that Lockheed Martin aircraft delivers holiday joy.

There’s nothing in the ad that tells us how the C-130 has been used as a ‘flying sleigh.’ Has a C-130 has ever been loaded up with toys donated by Lockheed Martin and its employees to deliver to kids in the developing world, or to an American Indian reservation, or a poor urban center? This ad is mute on that count.

But if Lockheed Martin has done something like that, well, then, that’s 10 times the ad that this one is.

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