Cessna: It's OK to Have a Private Jet

Campaign From Aviation Company Aims to Justify the Expense in This Economy

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- A few months after lawmakers bashed hat-in-hand Detroit automakers for traveling to Washington via private plane, Cessna is making a bold case for corporate America to get back onboard.

Cessna ad

Cessna's 'Rise' ad appeared in the Wall Street Journal today.

In a print-ad campaign begun today, Cessna challenges business leaders with this headline: "Timidity didn't get you this far. Why put it in your business plan now? In today's corporate world, pity the executive who blinks."

The ad in today's Wall Street Journal is themed "Rise" and says, "One thing is certain: True visionaries will continue to fly. Because in tempestuous times, leaders recognize it's not about ego. Or artifice. It's simply about availing yourself of the full range of tools to do your job."

"It's time for the other side of the story to be told," said Jack Pelton, chairman-CEO and president at Cessna. A spokesman said the ads were meant to be hard-hitting. "I would characterize it as a counterattack on the misinformation out there."

The "other side" of the story that Cessna wants to tell is that business aircraft are used by a wide variety of companies as "productivity tools." Robert Stangarone, VP-corporate communication, cited Walmart as a prime example, with its fleet of dozens of small aircraft used every day by middle managers traveling to stores, warehouses and facilities without easy access to major airports.

Private aircraft's image problem
The image problem for the private-aircraft business began last year when auto executives from Detroit's Big Three were soundly and publicly flogged for flying private jets to Washington to ask for bailout money. The ensuing outcry grew so loud that the car companies gave up their fleets.

While the main reason Cessna's business is suffering is its tendency to rise and fall with the economy, the company also thought it was important to speak up for the image of business flying, Mr. Stangarone said. "We're the largest general aviation manufacturer out there," he said. "We have a big dog in this fight. We feel like we must take a stand."

The campaign, created by Grace/Dickerson, Denver, will run in national business newspapers and magazines as well as aviation trades, and will include a public-relations campaign. The PR push will follow the ads, emphasizing economically positive points such as the fact that general aviation (all civil aviation except airlines) is a $150 billion business that employs 1.2 million people. Mr. Stangarone said another point the company will make is that it's one of the few industries with a positive balance of trade, exporting 40% of its products annually.

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