Commute around Washington, DC, for a while, and you’ll notice a plethora of mystifying advertisements: A bus ad reading, “WE DON’T MAKE UAVs”; a radio ad touting a company’s “GCE Solution”; a mysterious subway ad with just one clue, the acronym “ISR.” You probably have no idea what they mean, but the advertisers don’t care: They’re targeting policymakers, not the general public. Competition for government contracts has intensified, leading many companies to woo government employees via these odd, code-like ads.
By using federal acronyms, “they’re weeding out the waste,” a federal sales director at one radio station explains to the Wall Street Journal. (The waste, of course, being most of the general public, or anyone who has no need to buy a fighter jet engine.) His station has seen these types of ads rise by as much as 15% this year; the segment has grown so quickly that Google recently opened a DC office to target these types of advertisers.