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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 2005, pages 58-59

Muslim-American Activism

Bell, Boeing and TM Advertising Blame Others for Their Tasteless Ad

The offensive Osprey ad portrays a U.S. Special Forces assault on a house of worship (Photo courtesy National Journal).

IT'S ONE thing for a clerical error to result in a questionable ad being published once. But to have the same ad appear in three publications, and approved to run in nine others, as a result of a “clerical mistake” is very surprising to many Muslims in the United States.

The Osprey CV-22 advertisement in question portrays U.S. Special Forces assaulting Mosque Mohammad, a house of worship located right next to a bakery. “The ad screams, ”˜let’s get those Muslims,’” said Corey Saylor of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Walt Rice, director of external communications at Boeing Integrated Defense System, told the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, that he agreed the Osprey ad was “offensive.” “We notified Bell Helicopter of our discomfort with the content and image of the ad,” he said. “We asked Bell Helicopter to pull it. Bell was responsible for the ad production.”

Bell officials had approved the content and design of the ad.

Robert Ladder, Bell Helicopter’s PR executive director, told the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, that the person who approved the ad was “a mid-level executive at Bell.” Ladder called the ad “a massive screw up.”

The Bell executive confirmed to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, that TM Advertising was responsible for the concept and execution of the ill-fated Osprey Ad. TM Advertising Agency of Irving, Texas, (formerly Temerlin McClain) operates as part of McCann WorldGroup and marketing services conglomerate Interpublic Group.

When the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, contacted TM to ask about the process they use to develop their ad campaigns, TM insisted that the process is usually collaborative. “We conduct psychographics and demographic research of the targeted population,” its representative said. “This research is done in collaboration and with the full knowledge of our clients. We involve our clients in every step of the production.”

Bell Helicopter’s Ladder places all the blame on the National Journal, claiming the publication ignored Bell’s request to withdraw the ad and destroy all ad proofs. Ladder, Boeing’s Rice and Elizabeth Keffer of the National Journal all admitted to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, that the CV-22 Osprey ad already had been run in the Armed Forces Journal and the Air Force Magazine, both of which target the Pentagon and military officials, before appearing in the National Journal on Sept. 30.

According to Saylor, CAIR’s government director, “We were first notified on Sept. 27 by a congressional staffer of the offensive nature of the Osprey ad.

“How can an ad flaunt the Geneva convention that prohibits any acts of hostility directed against places of worship?” Saylor asked. “The ad states that the Ospreycan penetrate insertion points never thought possible. It gives the impression that Muslims and their houses of worship are the targets. The ad’s portrayal of U.S. Special Forces descending from heaven to unleash hell on the worshippers of the mosque is a troubling image.”

Saylor noted that TM Advertising has produced another ad of questionable taste. It showed a massive helicopter explosion with the caption, “We made this beautiful because this is the last thing you will see.”

Needless to say, Islamic groups are very disturbed by the images portrayed in the ad, not least because in the past year many attacks have occurred on houses of worship in Iraq and even in the U.S. “This feeds right into the perception that innocent Muslim worshippers in a mosque are legitimate U.S. military targets,” Saylor stated.

Because the Osprey CV-22 has had a lengthy and difficult development, with three fatal crashes, many in Congress thought it should be scrapped. Nevertheless, Congress recently approved $19 billion in production contracts. Boeing is responsible for the electronic elements, including the fuselage and digital avionics, while Bell is responsible for the wing, transmissions, rotor systems and engine installation and advertising. Each helicopter is priced at $72 million. Both Boeing and Bell Helicopter (which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Textron) have extensive interests in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and plan to market the Osprey to Arab and Muslim governments for civil and military use.

Mai Abdul Rahman