The Defense Department has a new ad campaign, extensively described in a massive New York Times article today. It encourages children and parents to talk about enlisting, in a new strategy targetted at "influencers," possibly in response to the recent decline of parental support for joining the armed forces.
The camera tracks a mother’s field of vision as she hovers over a
checkbook and a calculator lying on her kitchen table. She looks up as
her daughter, a young African-American woman, sits down to speak with
"Look Mom, if I decide I still want to be a doctor when I get out, I’ll
have had four years experience as a nurse or an X-ray tech or an O.T.
specialist working with real patients," the daughter says, speaking
directly into the camera and into her mother’s eyes. "That’s why I want
to enlist in the military; it’ll be good for my career. What do you
The campaign is scheduled to launch on October 17th, and seeks to fight the dwindling numbers of new recruits, as the war in Iraq and around the world drags on. It’s designed by a Massachusetts ad agency, Mullen, whose other clients include Eastman Chemical and General Motors. "This is advertising that is designed not to look or feel like
advertising at all," Edward Boches, chief creative officer at
Mullen told the Times.
The Times article also notes that the Army’s ad spending "has almost doubled since 2000, to
about $290 million this year, according to Army data," and that the Army "expects to spend
at least $1 billion on marketing under a five-year contract that it
plans to award sometime this winter."
But Carrie McClaren of Stay Free Magazine wonders whether this campaign is going to shore up the recruiting numbers. She writes:
"… I can’t for the life of me figure out how this upcoming campaign made it out of focus group. The first thing that came to mind when I
saw this image from one commercial was "It’s your turn . . . to die." I mean, they might as well put target lines around this woman’s face! Considering that the number one reason young people don’t sign up
for the military is to avoid getting killed, I give this campaign a
week before it’s shot down."
Even the Times agrees that the DOD has a hard job ahead. In the coming months, the article ends, "the Army’s marketing and recruitment machine will be challenged to
prove wrong the old joke that even the best ads cannot sell a troubled
"I think people in the armed services are racking
their brains to come up with new recruiting messages," Professor Segal
[a sociologist at the University of Maryland] said. "But I don’t know that they’ve come up with anything that’s