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Baffling Metro Ads Require 'Code Breakers'

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By Dawn Lim March 8, 2011

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Intel and security software companies have taken the battle for federal contracts to Washington's Metro stations -- through myriad baffling ads that "revel in their obscurantism," the Wall Street Journal observes in "To Understand Washington Ads, You've Got to Be a Code Breaker."

The arsenal of buzzwords -- such as ISR (Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance), IPV6 (an Internet protocol), cloud computing (the industry's favorite way to describe web-based computing) and cyber war (one of Capitol Hill's favorite panic buttons) -- that have appeared on D.C.'s streets show increasingly aggressive ways that federal contractors are trying to reach their target audience.

Northrop Grumman moves its corporate headquarters to D.C. this year to tap into the market, Forbes reports. WTOP has seen advertising by companies seeking federal contracts rise by up to 15 percent this year to become its biggest money-earner, according to the Journal.

Ads for classified and cybersecurity products come extra bubblewrapped, adding to the confusion of the average Metro commuter looking in from the outside. For instance, Palantir, which makes software for intelligence agencies, pads an extra layer of crypto-speak on its ads to make the commuters -- and even federal buyers -- scratch their heads over what is being advertised. No worries, as one Palantir ad trumpets, "THOSE WITH A NEED TO KNOW, KNOW."

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