In a move that hearkens back to World War II's "Loose Lips Sink Ships" campaign, the National Security Agency has launched a flock of ads urging military personnel to protect national secrets during this time of terrorist crisis.
Created by the NSA's ad agency, Trahan, Burden & Charles, Baltimore, the new print campaign uses dramatic patriotic art of miliary personnel at work emblazoned with slogans such as "INFORMATION SECURITY BEGINS WITH YOU."
The public service ads, which have been placed in the Gannett-owned Military Times Media Group publications, urge members of the armed forces to be careful with sensitive information to prevent its falling into the hands of terrorist groups. The Media Group includes The Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times.
This is the first time the NSA has ever commissioned an outside ad campaign, said NSA spokeswomen Marti Mercer. Like all aspects of budget for the ultra-secret NSA, the advertising campaign's cost is classified.
The ad images have also been used for large wall posters that will be hung in military facilities.
A global intelligence-gathering organization and the country's premiere code-breaking agency, the NSA provides its information to the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, military commanders and other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA and the FBI.
Notoriously tight-lipped with the press, the NSA does not usually grant interviews. However, the agency did agree to answer a list of questions submitted by AdAge.com about its new advertising campaign. An NSA representative sent back the following replies:
Q: When did the campaign start? When will it finish?
A: NSA's information security awareness campaign in Military Times magazines started in April and is scheduled to end in June.
Q: Will it expand beyond the military services? Into consumer publications?
A: Our contract is aimed strictly at members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Q: Will it expand into radio or television?
A: There are no plans to expand into any commercial broadcast medium.
Q: What's your budget for this campaign?
A: It is NSA policy not to share contractual information.
Q: Is this NSA's first ad campaign with a paid media vendor?
A: Yes, although the NSA has an ongoing, active public presence within the information assurance, defense and academic communities through conferences, distribution of brochures and other materials, vendor and government partnerships, and educational programs.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, NSA initiated the campaign to stress the importance of information security during wartime. We hope to increase the awareness of military personnel to the absolute necessity of guarding sensitive information, using secure communication methods and practicing good computer security.
NSA developed a series of four military prints to deliver the information security message to decision-makers in the U.S. Armed Forces. These prints capture the graphic style of security awareness posters used during World War II. In addition, we repackaged these same graphics and same message into a series of print ads in Military Times, a publication that exclusively targets the American military. This is NSA's first use of these methods to increase information security awareness.
Q: Who is the ad agency?
A: Trahan, Burden & Charles in Baltimore.
Q: What is the aim of the campaign?
A: The objective of the campaign is to underscore the critical need for information security to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Part of NSA's mission is "information assurance," the protection of the communications and information systems of the U.S. Department of Defense and its allies. To achieve this goal, we use a "Defense-in-Depth" strategy, a balanced focus on three primary elements: people, technology and operations. This campaign is one small part of the training and awareness for the "people" component. Unguarded information can be a valuable source of intelligence to our enemies. The increased threat of terrorism has intensified the demand for our military personnel to remain vigilant and alert, always on guard protecting information that our enemies could use to undermine our national security and harm the nation. This campaign is a visible reminder of this crucial responsibility.
Q: Has it been effective?
A: Because the ad campaign is only one element in the overall training and awareness of the U.S. Armed Forces in the area of protecting information, it is impossible to gauge its effectiveness accurately. However, the ads are a highly visible reminder to our military personnel of their crucial role in protecting information. We believe that, as in all successful public awareness initiatives, we will have influenced our target audience by using this traditional mass-marketing strategy.
NSA believes in the importance of these efforts to raise the awareness of our military personnel to this critical element of our warfighting and defensive strategies. Our vigilance in protecting information is essential to our victory over terrorism and the safe return of our fighting men and women.
Richard Linnett, AdAge.com. June 3, 2002
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