Cryptic Ads Confuse DC Commuters

Despite calls for drastic spending-cuts, government contractors are advertising at record levels.  In fact, DC’s local WTOP-FM, which targets government managers, reports an increase in government contractor advertising by as much as 15 percent this year.

There’s one problem though: no one can understand the ads.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal this week, an increase in competition has led like Northrop Grumman and Quinetic North America to expand their marketing efforts in a way that has touched the broader public.

The “wooing” of government procurement officers used to be “conducted mainly in private.” But as the advertising has become more widespread, many Washington-area residents are utterly confused by cryptic ads plastered across metro cars and local buses.

The ads talk in governmentese, using “mysterious acronyms” the WSJ says gives “the ads the flavor of coded Cold War era shortwave radio broadcasts: ISR, F136, IPV6 and ICD-10.” And it seems the more obscure the ad the better. Take one for instance, that simply reads: “THOSE WITH A NEED TO KNOW, KNOW.”

But it may be that these enigmatic ads are a bit too unintelligible: even procurement officers claim they often can’t understand them.

According to the article, Northrop Grumman ran an ad in a metro stop picturing a “bombed-out city neighborhood,” followed with the text, ‘By the time you’ve identified the threat, we’ve already taken it out of the picture.’ In the lower, right-hand corner, a single clue: ISR.”

A lengthy online conversation ensued in which viewers revealed they “still don’t even get what they mean.”

Read the full article here.