Space Imaging approached Metzger Associates in late 1999 with an ambitious task: introduce Space Imaging’s IKONOS satellite imagery as a technology of interest to the general public, brand the imagery as a household product among the company’s target buying markets, and market the imagery as more than “just a pretty picture” but one that offers a value-added product or service. IKONOS was a newly launched, commercial satellite capable of collecting photographs of the Earth’s surface, showing details as small as three feet across. As Space Imaging was in a first-to-market position with this technology, our public relations campaign was two-tiered. First, we would educate the public at large about IKONOS’ Earth imaging capabilities. Second, we would expand the PR campaign into vertical business markets to “sell” this technology to potential users. This two-tiered campaign was a tremendous success, producing coverage worth more than $11 million in like advertising value and landing hits on CNN, The Today Show and the front page of The New York Times, as well as extensive coverage in international print and broadcast media.


Traditionally, the media and the general public have largely perceived the use of satellite imagery to be limited to environmental studies, weather analysis, scientific research and military intelligence. Most audiences would have a difficult time relating to how satellite imagery could affect their personal lives, such as real estate, tourism, recreation and education. With IKONOS, the applications in the commercial world would be limitless, but the education effort involved in creating mass awareness about the technology’s use was a daunting task. Since IKONOS was the first-ever satellite of its kind to be built and launched for commercial use, we had the opportunity to develop a campaign that created a lasting impression among consumer publications, as well as the trade press targeted by Space Imaging’s sales and marketing efforts.


Prior to beginning the media relations efforts, Space Imaging and Metzger Associates conducted extensive research to ascertain how the media had previously covered high-resolution, commercial satellite imagery; which companies the media perceived to be leaders in the field; and what the general awareness of the subject was. Through this research, Space Imaging and Metzger Associates learned that very little had been written about the use of this previously classified government technology in the commercial world and the media had not yet selected a company as the leader in this industry.

Our goal with the IKONOS First Image campaign was to position Space Imaging as first-to-market in providing extremely high-detail satellite imagery for commercial applications. With two competitors readying satellites with similar capabilities, it was urgent that Space Imaging launch a pre-emptive publicity strike to ensure its brand was the established, marquis name in the imaging industry.

For the first tier of the First Image campaign, our target audience was the general population — major national daily newspapers, mainstream magazines and national broadcast television. Widespread recognition throughout the public would then be followed by the second tier — target the vertical trade press to reach end-users in all of Space Imaging’s markets.


In order to establish Space Imaging as the clear leader in this field, Space Imaging and Metzger Associates developed a two-pronged strategy. Our goal was to raise general awareness of the company through a campaign in the mainstream consumer media, paving the way for a highly focused public relations campaign aimed at vertical publications in each of Space Imaging’s target markets.

For the mainstream consumer press, Space Imaging and Metzger Associates knew that a spectacular image would need to be released to stimulate excitement among general readers and to show the capabilities of this new satellite. The image would need to illustrate a well-known location that would be easily recognized by most individuals. We chose an image showing the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. This image was extremely detailed, showing street lines on the roads, cars, individual trees and even scaffolding on the Washington Monument. This image clearly demonstrated the potential of this new and exciting technology. The image was officially declared Space Imaging’s “first” image ever collected by the IKONOS satellite.

For the vertical trade press that we would be targeting to support Space Imaging’s future sales, Space Imaging and Metzger Associates released a series of “First Images” customized to each market. Each image highlighted the specific applications or uses for that industry. These vertical markets included state and local government, mapping, agriculture, forestry, emergency response, utilities, telecommunications, real estate, environment, national security, transportation, and insurance and risk management. Some of these markets had previously purchased lower resolution satellite imagery from other sources. Now, they would learn of the opportunity to purchase the world’s highest resolution imagery from Space Imaging required for detailed mapping and analysis.


The release of the image of Washington, D.C., was accompanied by a press release describing the image, the satellite’s capabilities, and the potential applications of spy-quality imagery for commercial purposes.  We followed up the release by pitching the story to top-tier broadcast, electronic and print media in the United States. We also held a well-attended press conference at Space Imaging’s headquarters to unveil the “First Image” and kick off our efforts. A local television camera crew was used to feed filming of the unveiling event to national news broadcasts.

Market-specific images were chosen to illustrate applications possible only with this new imagery, as opposed to traditional satellite imagery, which is significantly lower in resolution.  For example, for the agriculture market, we released imagery that showed how farmers can more precisely monitor the health of crops and estimate yields with IKONOS imagery. Additional images for the vertical press illustrated applications including gauging damage after natural disasters, evaluating real estate properties, and mapping utility and telecommunication networks.

The release of these images took place in the months following the launch of the First Image campaign, and the release format followed the same as that for the Washington, D.C., image. In addition to distributing news releases and accompanying images, we interviewed customers in each vertical market who could be used as references for the media. These customers testified as to the potential value of IKONOS imagery for their specific business applications.


The IKONOS First Image campaign had tremendous success in the media. Space Imaging and Metzger Associates generated more than $11.1 million in publicity value, when using a conservative multiple of four against the advertising value of the coverage. At the end of the first quarter in 2000, five months after the IKONOS First Image campaign was launched, more than 70 million impressions were made for Space Imaging.

Among the most notable hits we received were interviews with Space Imaging’s CEO on the major networks — CNN, Fox News and the BBC. Images collected by IKONOS appeared on the front page of The New York Times on multiple occasions and were featured on international television programs, as well as in numerous foreign publications.
The recognition created by the IKONOS First Image campaign reaped strong dividends for Space Imaging, and clearly positioned Space Imaging as the leader in the field of satellite imaging. The IKONOS satellite has been branded as the de facto standard in advanced imaging technology for the commercial markets. Metzger Associates’ accomplishments with the consumer and trade media laid the groundwork for a strong international sales campaign by Space Imaging.