Pentagon Memorial Fund names Weber Merritt AOR

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon Memorial Fund has tapped Weber Merritt Strategies (WMS) as its AOR following a five-way competition. The other four firms were not disclosed.

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon Memorial Fund has tapped Weber Merritt Strategies (WMS) as its AOR following a five-way competition. The other four firms were not disclosed.

The fund, a private, nonprofit organization created in 2002 by family members of 9/11 Pentagon victims, has raised $8 million in private money toward its goal of $18 million for construction. The memorial, set on 2 acres bordering the Pentagon, will include 184 labeled benches with lighted reflecting pools beneath. Construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2006, with completion set for 2008.

"It's a sensitive client to have. But it's a great client to have," said Gerald Mullins, SVP of WMS. "It's one of those few clients you have where it's for all the right reasons," DC-based WMS will oversee an eBay auction of floor seats to a U2 concert and tickets to the Indianapolis 500 and other events in an attempt to boost the profile of the fund and to raise money for construction.

Aside from the auction, the fund is considering the idea of taking the completed prototype of the benches that will be used at the memorial on a tour of various cities to raise awareness of the memorial, said James Laychak, president of the fund.

The agency has already won some favorable media coverage for the memorial. "The Washington Post has been a tremendous friend of the fund, and it has given pretty steady updates on what we're doing," Mullins said.

The Pentagon is organizing an "America Supports You Freedom Walk," scheduled for September 11, which will be used in part to raise awareness of the fund. The Freedom Walk sparked controversy last month when The Washington Post pulled its co-sponsorship of the walk, concerned that it would be interpreted as support for the war in Iraq.

The Washington Times, however, stepped in last week to take its place.

Dick Amberg, GM and VP of the Washington Times, said the paper's decision is in line with the paper's commitment to public service.

"We [donate public ad space] as a matter of course for non-profit and charitable organizations," he said. "This certainly qualified."

The Post had received criticism for its planned sponsorship from readers, bloggers, and The Post unit of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. Amberg said he does not anticipate any backlash from readers, given the paper's conservative stance.

"This is not being done as a political thing at all," he said. "We view it as a non-political event and we're happy to support it."

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