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McDonnell Climbs Aboard Mick Jagger's Cloud

October 20, 1987|BRUCE HOROVITZ

Rolling Stone Mick Jagger isn't the sort of guy you'd expect to find as a pitchman for fighter and attack aircraft.

Rest assured, he's not doing that. But the title to one of Jagger's best-known songs, "Get Off of My Cloud," has found its way onto a poster that is part of a McDonnell Douglas campaign to promote its F/A-18 aircraft.

McDonnell Douglas, however, didn't stop there. It snatched the title to an old Lovin' Spoonful tune about love and romance, "Do You Believe in Magic?," and slapped it on the front of a poster that shows an F/A-18 ascending at blazing speed. And in yet another poster that shows a pilot fully decked in flight gear, the headline reads, "Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll."

Hundreds of the McDonnell Douglas rock 'n' roll posters, created by the Chicago office of the J. Walter Thompson ad firm, were handed out to pilots and officials at a recent aviation and aeronautics industry convention in Las Vegas. And hundreds more have since been sent to Navy bases around the country. The purpose of the campaign--which the agency has dubbed "Rockin' and Rollin' "--is to coax government officials to keep buying these $18-million aircraft. In pilot lingo, "rockin' " stands for an air-to-ground attack, while "rollin' " stands for an air-to-air mission.

The use of rock 'n' roll music in military advertising has become hip, since "Top Gun"--the wildly popular Paramount film about a daring Navy pilot--was released in 1986. A new Air Force ad campaign by the New York ad firm Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, features a pilot strapping on his flight gear to the pulsating beat of rock music. More are expected to follow.

"I've heard of a lot of companies--from makers of soda pop to running shoes--using music as a marketing tool," said David N. Rheins, editor of the New York publication, Marketing Through Music. "But I really don't know if this is the most effective way to sell fighter jets." But Tim Beecher, a McDonnell Douglas spokesman, disagrees. "Rock and roll," he said, "is an effective way to get the attention of Navy pilots."

Because the glitzy posters make no direct associations with the names of the artists who wrote or sang the songs, Thompson did not need their permission, said Michael Brandt, an account supervisor at J. Walter Thompson. "I can't say how the guys who wrote the songs would feel about this use," Brandt said, "but when you're up in one of these planes, you get that kind of feeling--like nobody can touch you."

But the authors and singers of some of these songs are not all touched by this unlikely association with defense hardware. Although Jagger was out of the country and unavailable for comment, his New York-based spokesman, Tony King, said: "I'm sure Mick has no idea about this campaign--but I don't think he'd like it one bit."

Carlin Masters the Stuff of Commercials

George Carlin is suddenly sounding like Mr. October.

Between innings of baseball's championship games--right through the World Series--the comedian has emerged on television and radio as chief huckster for Fuji's videotapes and audiocassettes.

For Carlin--who helped create the campaign--this is the first national gig as a spokesman for a major advertiser. For years, ad executives say, most advertisers kept their distance from Carlin, whose reputation as a provocative--and often profane--comedian cost him a number of potential advertising jobs. But Gene Kern, Fuji's advertising manager, said Fuji's research shows that "Carlin's appeal crosses over all age and demographic groups."

In these Fuji spots, created by the ad firm Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein Inc., Carlin is purely lightweight. For years, Carlin has used the term "stuff" in his skits, and now he has been matched with a Japanese videotape maker whose slogan is, "Put the Good Stuff on the Good Stuff."

Quake Victims Get a Break on Payments

One quick way to lose customers is to hit them when they're down on their luck. Take Los Angeles area earthquake victims, for example.

Marketing executives at several giant petroleum companies--including Unocal and Texaco--figure that the last thing local earthquake victims need are notices telling them that they are delinquent on their monthly payments. So, to avoid that, Unocal and Texaco have mailed out letters to thousands of Southern California credit card holders, telling them that they can delay their payments--without finance charges--for up to two months.

Unocal mailed 43,000 letters while Texaco mailed 14,000. Unocal began its "disaster assistance" program in 1982, after a hurricane hit the Hawaiian Islands. It has since sent letters after seven other disasters, including some to Chicago area residents following massive flooding last August. About 7% of those contacted generally take advantage of the offer, said Dick Devincenzi, Texaco's manager of retail credit. "We'd rather go to them first," said Devincenzi, "before they come to us."

Hibernation Ends for Tuffy the Rhino

Long before there was a Spuds McKenzie, there was "Tuffy" the rhino.

If you're not familiar with Tuffy, that's OK. After serving as a longtime trademark and advertising symbol for Armstrong's "Rhino-Flex" brand tires, he went into hibernation more than a decade ago.

But now, Tuffy has reemerged in a series of Armstrong Tire Co.'s magazine and television ads. The theme line: "Ride the Rhino." Why is Tuffy back? Simple, according to Danile A. Cutrone, director of marketing, "Research among consumers and dealers shows that the Rhino is the perfect (advertising) symbol."

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