Halliburton is launching an ad campaign featuring real employees as the government services contractor faces lawsuits over an attack in Iraq that killed six workers and injured nine others last year.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside, Calif., accuses Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root of luring employees to work in Iraq in 2003 with false claims that the jobs were safe. Instead, the suit claims, a truck convoy ambushed by insurgents April 9, 2004, was used as a decoy to draw attention away from another group delivering fuel.
A Halliburton spokeswoman declined comment on the merits of the suit. The new ads were not a response to the suit but were designed to address questions of improper billing and other issues raised by critics in Congress, the spokeswoman said.
"Our core audiencesmployees, shareholders, vendors and customers—proved their support of the company last year, in a very difficult environment," said company representative Beverly Scippa. "These ads should confirm their endorsement and educate those who didn't know what to think about all the charges."
Created by The Richards Group in Dallas, the campaign breaking this week includes TV and print ads under the theme "Halliburton proud." While the spots do not focus exclusively on workers in Iraq, they do promote "thousands of Halliburton employees who every day go places no one else will go and do things no one else can do," company president, CEO and chairman Dave Lesar said in a statement.
"Wherever there's an impossible task to be done, you'll find Halliburton," Lesar said. "I'm proud to work for Halliburton, and I'm proud of the company's thousands of employees."
After winning a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq's oil fields, utilities and provide supplies for U.S. troops in the Iraq war, Halliburton has sought to deflect criticism that the Houston-based company was profiteering with the help of its former CEO, Vice President Dick Cheney.
"We're serving the troops because of what we know, not who we know," Lesar said in a TV spot that ran last year.
Jay Patterson is one of six Halliburton employees featured in the new TV spot.
"I helped move containerized housing units into the camps, helped hook up running water, power and sewage so that the soldiers could have a decent place to come back to at the end of the day," Patterson says in the commercial. "We got 80,000 troops out of the sand in three months. It was awesome. No other company could have done that."
Campaign spending is undisclosed. Halliburton spent $1.5 million on advertising in 2004, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.
Attorney Ramon Rossi Lopez, representing April Johnson in the suit over the death of her father Tony Johnson, said the lawsuit filed in California is expected to be the first of several, with most to be filed in Houston, where Halliburton is headquartered.
The lawsuit alleges that Johnson's convoy was deployed "without regard for the lives, safety and well-being of its unarmed civilian employees."
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