POLITICS

F-35 ads on OC Transpo buses part of new PR campaign

05/30/2013 07:15 EDT | Updated 07/30/2013 05:12 EDT
The company behind the F-35 fighter jets is in the midst of a new PR campaign aimed at ordinary Canadians, not just politicians and military officials.

Lockheed Martin has taken out ads on Ottawa's OC Transpo buses, with slogans such as "putting high tech where it's needed, on the front lines."

They've also launched a website and social media campaigns and have been bringing a simulator to events such as Ottawa's Cansec, the largest defence trade show in Canada.

"We're trying to reach out to Canadians going through traditional channels," said Keelan Green, who’s running the F-35 campaign through PR firm Thornley Fallis.

"We're also rolling out an advertising campaign that's supported by web, video and social media."

This is despite the federal government’s decision in December to officially "hit the reset button" on buying a fleet of F-35s, after the auditor-general said the government had undersold cost estimates by billions of dollars.

There has already been a third of a billion dollars spent on the search for a replacement for Canada’s aging CF-18 jets, with Canadian military officials continuing to work with the program.

Rivals trying to gain momentum

Lockheed Martin vice-president Steve O'Bryan is in charge of the F-35 project and said he's aware it's a controversial aircraft.

"We're trying to dispel any misinformation or myths that are out there today," he said.

"This is an airplane that I think provides great benefits to the Canadian air force, the Canadian military, the Canadian aerospace industry, but more importantly the Canadian nation."

O’Bryan said a Pentagon report last week showed the cost of a single F-35 jet is slowly dropping and would cost about $75 million if Canada orders by 2020.

However, one of the F-35's rivals also at Cansec said they saw the PR campaign as a sign their project’s in "survival mode" in Canada.

Many other manufacturers have stepped up their efforts to pitch their products against what they’re calling a "politically weakened" F-35.