It will be the 50th anniversary of D-Day, and the events are building to what could become one of the biggest commemorations of one of the fiercest battles in history.
More than 400 events throughout 1994 will mark five decades since the landings on the Normandy beaches, when Allied troops began the land battle to recapture Europe from Nazi armies.
The travel industry and mass media have been making plans for years. Consumer products marketers have taken a more cautious approach, but some will also offer efforts inspired by the anniversary.
For a true 50-years-after experience, a person could be part of a D-Day tour package, check the D-Day weather on the Weather Channel, jet to England and watch 1940s era entertainment on the plane, and later, relax with a smoke, using a Zippo commemorative D-Day lighter.
Hitting the beaches, again
More than 170,000 Allied troops hit the beaches on June 6, 1944, D-Day. A half-century later, nearly that many will crowd the beaches just during the anniversary week alone, said Claire Bigelow, U.S. director of the French-based Normandy Tourist Board. Among those, 20,000 to 25,000 will be American.
The tourist board didn't use a big ad campaign but rather relied on public relations and trade show exposure.
"All the hotels in Normandy are sold out" for the occasion, Ms. Bigelow said.
Among those attending will be at least 15 heads of state, including President Clinton. But to accommodate those whodon't run countries-the veterans, their families and history buffs who plan to be in Normandy June 6-there's work to be done by tourism companies.
Dozens of travel companies have been offering D-Day packages. But Boston-based Grand Circle Travel has the distinction of being the official travel company of the non-profit Battle of Normandy Foundation.
Grand Circle has signed up more than 1,000 people for its D-Day related trips from April to October. The travel agency didn't advertise the trips in mainstream media. It put out a special catalog that was mailed to 40,000 previous customers as well as Battle of Normandy Foundation members. It also created an ad for the foundation's journal, The Beachhead.
Putting more firepower into advertising was the British Tourist Authority. Through print ads from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, the BTA has been asking Americans to consider traveling to Britain to observe D-Day.
U.K. carrier Virgin Atlantic Airways is boasting "preferred airline" status, awarded by England's Southern Tourist Board, for the D-Day 50th anniversary commemorations. Virgin Atlantic is offering special packages through its tour operator, Travel Bound.
The airline, whose agency is Korey, Kay & Partners, New York, advertised in mostof the print media with the BTA. It also joined the BTA in a co-op mailing to senior citizen travelers, trade and consumer shows, and a D-Day newsletter published by the BTA.
And in honor of the anniversary, Virgin Atlantic will show 1940s programming during all flights on its movie screens this summer.
On the sea, Cunard Lines has been named the official cruise line of the Battle of Normandy Foundation. The Queen Elizabeth 2 and Vistafjord will head for Normandy. Passengers will have the opportunity to visit D-Day sites. In addition, Bob Hope will perform aboard the QE2, while commentator Edwin Newman will host special commemorative programs on its transatlantic crossings before and after D-Day.
Across the English Channel, Air France is honoring the anniversary with a 30% discount to World War II veterans and their families on round-trip trans-Atlantic fares.
And Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is offering "D-Day Remembrance Fares" to World War II veterans and their families including widows of veterans, from April 1 to Dec. 10.
Covering the battle
A barrage of media forces, as varied as Travel & Leisure and the Weather Channel, that didn't even exist 50 years ago are marshaling their resources.
Travel & Leisure produced a 16-page ad section on D-Day for the British Tourist Authority. The section will be included in May issue for 900,000 subscribers. On May 1, the supplement will also appear in both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
The supplement generated $350,000 in revenue from advertising including Zippo lighters, Cunard, Virgin Atlantic and CBS-Fox Video.
Travel & Leisure worked with the BTA and Ogilvy & Mather to produce the section, which recalls the events surrounding the Normandy invasion and reports on commemorative activities planned for this summer in the U.K.
On cable TV, Landmark Communications' Weather Channel and Travel Channel have put together special programs.
The Weather Channel will be showing "D-Day: Forecast for Victory," which will take a look at how the weather played an important role in the D-Day process. The series will air on June 4 to 6.
The Travel Channel will run a World War II special, "Tours of Remembrance: A WWII Journey," on May 26. The 1-hour special will show viewers where to go and what to do to experience destinations significant to the war.
The Discovery Channel will air a world premiere special on May 30, titled "Normandy: The Great Crusade." The cable channel has been working on this production for two years. The show is skewed toward the male demographic and contains archival tapes from National Public Radio and recorded letters sent home by veterans. Ford Motor Co.'s Ford and Lincoln-Mercury divisions are sponsoring the show.
Not to be left out of a news event, Cable News Network is planning a variety of D-Day programming. On June 5, it will telecast "CNN Presents ... D-Day: The Great Crusade." On June 6, it will show "D-Day Remembrances." Talk show host Larry King will also report live from Normandy for a special edition.
At the Big 3 broadcast networks, CBS is dispatching Dan Rather and a hero from a more recent war, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, to co-anchor a 2-hour "CBS Reports" documentary on the D-Day anniversary. It will air in prime time either the last week of May or the first week of June.
"CBS This Morning" will also have special programming surrounding D-Day and will have Mark McKewen and Harry Smith reporting on location from important historical sites in Europe.
NBC Entertainment aired a 4-hour prime-time entertainment event, "World War II: Where Lions Roared" on April 19 and April 20. The special was billed as "a powerful portrait of the relationships among the three great allied leaders: Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin" from the initial invasion of Poland through the D-Day invasion at Normandy.
NBC News will also air regular news coverage around the event.
ABC has no prime-time entertainment programming, but ABC News will air coverage around the event.
FoxVideo is using D-Day to give new life to its catalog of war movies. On May 17, it will start promoting, under the umbrella theme "The D-Day 50th Anniversary Commemorative Collection," four classic Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. movies about World War II, including the premier D-Day movie, 1962's "The Longest Day."
FoxVideo is pushing the D-Day collection with print ads in Travel & Leisure and American Legion, and an extensive public relations campaign designed to reach veterans.
FoxVideo creates ads in-house. Focus Media, Studio City, Calif., handles placement.
"Many of the editors [of publications for veterans] didn't know that these things were going to be available," said one executive working on FoxVideo's D-Day project, who also is an Army veteran who landed on the beach at Normandy on D-Day.
"I think it's good people know there was a war before Vietnam and Korea and the Persian Gulf," said the executive, who requested anonymity.
The video marketer will team with the Veterans Administration in Los Angeles to host a May 30 movie screening of "The Longest Day." On the anniversary itself, FoxVideo with the American Film Institute will show the movie in Washington.
Also, FoxVideo is dropping by $5 the prices of "The Longest Day" and "D-Day, the Sixth of June," to $24.98 and $14.98, respectively. Both videos will be wrapped in new, commemorative packaging and will include exclusive Fox Movietone News footage before the movie.
On the home front
Although several big-name consumer products etched themselves in the hearts of millions through wartime advertising, most seem to be hesitant to bring war imagery back into their ads.
Chrysler Corp.'s Jeep division said that after careful consideration, it elected not to advertise in any D-Day events or media opportunities.
The Jeep brand began in 1941 when original manufacturer Willys-Overland, Toledo, Ohio, won a bid to produce military vehicles for the U.S. Army.
"Jeep does not want to overcommercialize the war-we also don't want it to be misinterpreted, though," said David Rooney, Jeep advertising manager. "Our military history is a proud part of the Jeep heritage. In fact, it is where Jeep was born."
Coca-Cola Co., whose goal during World War II was to put a Coke machine "within a mile of every troop," made a contribution to the Battle of Normandy Foundation but "didn't go for" the idea of including the foundation in any of its advertising, said Linda Pajusi, director of corporate affairs at the foundation.
The Washington-based organization, started in 1985 to promote a greater understanding of the causes and effects of World War II, is seeking corporate sponsors to fund several educational and commemorative projects dealing with Normandy.
Among other corporate contributors, with donations ranging from $25,000 to more than $1 million, are Ameritech, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., Boeing Co., Lockheed Co. and Du Pont Co.
The foundation is pitching a "major, international telecommunications company" that may possibly use D-Day imagery on its calling cards, said John Cummings, director of corporate development. It's also pursuing a major U.S. credit card company.
One marketer capitalizing on the anniversary is Zippo Manufacturing Co., Bradford, Pa. The maker of Zippo lighters increased its ad budget this year by one-third, to $1 million, to promote two commemorative D-Day lighters.
One $25 lighter features a black "crackle" finish, created during the war when metal rationing prevented the normal chrome finish.
"The World War II Zippo lighter we sold to PXes was the greatest marketing program we ever did," said Pat Grandy, advertising manager. "It made the company an icon of the war."
Mr. Grandy said Zippo began advertising the special edition lighters in February in general interest and military publications from People and TV Guide to Army Times. Print ads from Larson Advertising, Jamestown, N.Y. feature the words Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke to launch the invasion; "OK ... we'll go." Zippo is also running the ads in the U.K. and Canada, with a different campaign in France.
The U.S. Department of Defense, though sponsoring a number of events through its 50th Anniversary of World War II Committee, isn't including D-Day in its advertising.
Congress stipulates that most of the ad money it gives to the military branches be used for recruiting, a U.S. Army spokeswoman explained.
"We have to go where the young kids are," she said, "and there isn't really any way to tie D-Day in to MTV."
Contributing to this story: Joe Mandese, Marcy Magiera, Ira Teinowitz and Dan Lippe.