Boeing ads focus on space-based image

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Boeing this week puts an estimated $50 million behind its first-ever corporate campaign to shift its image from airplane manufacturer to high-tech aerospace and communications expert.

"Around the world, we're still seen as a commercial airline manufacturer," said Judith Muhlberg, Boeing VP-communications. "Our future growth is going to be in communications, and it will be space-based communications."

For years, Anne Toulouse, now Boeing's VP-brand management and advertising, watched as companies from unrelated fields such as insurance ran TV ads with images of outer space and soaring rockets. A frustrated Ms. Toulouse felt those images should be associated with Boeing, a leader in aerospace business.

"We felt it was important for us to stand up and claim that," she said.

The campaign, from FCB Worldwide, London, Seattle and New York, breaks May 1, with three TV spots featuring shots of astronauts, the world spinning and rockets lifting off--and, significantly, satellites. The spots all use the tagline "Boeing. Forever new frontiers."


Last week Boeing unveiled plans for Connexion by Boeing, a communications system that will allow high-speed Internet access and real-time TV broadcasts to planes while in flight. Connexion is also the focus of a print ad in the new campaign. Print launches May 8 in the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.

While other companies are working on similar systems, Boeing may have a marketing advantage since it can sell the Connexion system as a package with its planes (see related story on Page 18).

"We will use every strategic advantage we have to serve our customers," Ms. Muhlberg said.

Overall, the global campaign will focus on the U.S. as well as Germany, Japan and the U.K. Boeing opted for what it termed cost-effective national cable buys--such as on CNBC and Bloomberg--to reach its primary target of top corporate executives.

Additional targets include the company's 190,000 employees (a 40-day strike by engineers hurt production in the first quarter) and the investment community, which Boeing executives said has undervalued the company's stock. Last week, the stock traded near $39 a share, down from a 52-week-high of more than $48. First-quarter earnings were down 12% from a year ago, in part due to the strike.

"We certainly want the investment community to think this is a well-balanced company that's recession-resistant," said Ian Beavis, an executive director at FCB Worldwide, Southfield, Mich.

John Rogers, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co., said while he believes the company is undervalued, other analysts are unconvinced Boeing can transform itself.


"They have aspects of the new economy in their business and they're growing aspects," he said. "But the bulk of their business is still old economy."

Mr. Rogers added that investors wonder if Boeing can maintain leadership in the commercial airline business. Its lone competitor, European aircraft marketer AirBus Industrie, had more orders for new planes last year, he said, but Boeing has forged ahead this year.

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