Boeing, Denmark and Reaching Out to Danish Voters: An Unprecedented Ad Campaign


2016-04-23 Unless you read and speak Danish or have friends in Denmark, you might have missed this one.

Boeing is reinventing itself in Denmark using its American approach in Nordic country.

Instead of the Vikings invading Anglo-Saxon territory, we are seeing something in reverse.

When companies compete to sell their products, systems or services in the defense sector, they do many things in terms of public relations.

But Boeing is doing something quite unusual in Denmark – they are using their time-tested approach used in the United States now in Denmark.

But Denmark is not the United States.

When Boeing lost the tanker competition to Airbus, they pushed hard on the “American tanker” line and appealed directly to American voters and Congressman that the “right tanker” for America was the “tanker built in America.”

One could point out that the USAF is still waiting for their new tanker several years later, while the world’s air forces, including Arab ones, are flying the new Airbus tanker.

What works in America, why not try abroad?

We now learn from Boeing’s ads in Denmark that the Danish taxpayer will save a lot of money if the Danish Air Force buys F-18s and that money can then be used for schools and hospitals.

One can be sure the Danish government loves having Boeing appeal over the heads of the government to the Danish voters!

As Hans Tino Hansen of Risk Intelligence has put it with regard to the Boeing approach:

“What Boeing does not understand is that the Danish public expects the politicians to take this kind of decision. It is not about winning an ad campaign.

With these advertisements, it is turning the Danish public off rather than animating them.

It is actually detrimental to their own interests.

Danish citizens do not want foreign companies telling how to spend Danish taxpayer money.

They do not want a defense product pushed down their throats.”

Even Sputnik News has picked up on this.

Today, pictures of Boeing fighter jets adorn the front pages of a number of national newspapers in Denmark. With the country’s stock of ageing F-16 slowly approaching the end of their lifetime, Denmark’s armed forces are looking forward to a more state-of-the-art replacement.

The choice lies between three warplanes, namely the Joint Strike Fighter (produced by US Lockheed Martin), the Eurofighter Typhoon (produced by Airbus in partnership with a pan-European consortium) and the F/A-18 Super Hornet (produced by Boeing), with the F-35A Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) generally regarded as the front-runner.

Besides, Denmark has been a partner nation in the F-35 program since 1997, contributing an estimated 291 million dollars to the development project….

Although the decision is solely up to the politicians in Copenhagen, Boeing is leaving no stone unturned in its massive campaign, which is addressed to the entire Danish population.

According to Tom Bell, Head of Boeing’ global sales and marketing department, the decision is so important that all of the Danish population ought to be involved.

It is our impression that an expense of such proportions concerns both the politicians and the population, and we hope the campaign will lead to an open and honest debate about the huge cost to the Danish taxpayers,” he said, explaining that Boeing has never launched campaigns of such a scale before.

The Mi17 chosen as the best helicopter for the Afghan forces.
The Mi17 chosen as the best helicopter for the Afghan forces.

Boeing believes that its radio and media outreach to the “average Danish citizen” is an appropriate step to take in playing its role as the custodian for Danish defense and budget.

Actually, Boeing has missed the core point: they have no role as custodian of the Danish budget!

To put this in perspective: the Russians provided combat helicopters for the Afghans paid for by DoD funds.

Many US manufacturers did not like this and worked the normal way to try to change DoD policy.

So to continue with this analogy, the Russian firm to make its case takes out ads in many American newspapers and on radio, to argue that buying Russian helicopters versus those produced in America will save millions on hospitals and other civilian projects.

I am sure there would have been no reaction in the United States to such tactics.

Editor’s Note: The Williams Foundation of Canberra, Australia and the Centre for Military Reform, Copenhagen, Denmark, held a seminar on the future of airpower last year which addressed the challenges facing allies and how the evolution of airpower could aid in dealing with those challenges.

At the symposium, Ed Timperlake provided an overview of the kinds of challenges facing 21st century airpower, and it is against the evolving threat environment where a defense capability needs to be measured in terms of its adequacy or not.

It is not a voting contest.

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