By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: November 10, 2008
FOR the last two years, the Army has presented itself to potential
recruits as the way to become "Army strong." Beginning on Tuesday,
Veterans Day, the Army will seek to make its pitch stronger by making
the campaign more relevant to the desired audience of Americans ages 17 to 24.
One new feature on a redesigned version of the Army Web site
(goarmy.com) called "Straight From Iraq" states, "Now you can find
out what it's really like to be deployed in the Middle East from the
men and women stationed there."
"Soldiers are ready to take your questions," says a section of the
site devoted to a webcast series. The feature represents the first
time that visitors can ask questions of soldiers deployed overseas as
well as the first time the Iraq war has been referred to so directly
and prominently on the Web site.
The goal is to provide those considering the Army along with
parents and others who influence their decisions with "verifiable
information about what being a soldier is really like, what combat is
really like," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commanding general
of the Army Accessions Command in Fort Monroe, Va., which is
The changes in the "Army strong" campaign place more emphasis on the
Internet, event marketing and other methods that connect with young
Americans on a closer, more personal level.
To help pay for the new media features, cutbacks are being made in
areas like the Army's sponsorships of professional rodeos.
The changes include an additional theme for the campaign, "Strength
like no other," which will appear along with "Army strong"; a focus
on the skills that recruits can learn in the Army, to make a stronger
case about how serving can bring personal and career success later in
life; and new information about becoming an officer.
"The campaign has been successful conveying the benefits of 'Army
strong,' the physical, emotional and mental benefits," said Ed
Walters, chief marketing officer for the Army at the Pentagon.
"We wanted to more clearly articulate that," he added, through
efforts like sharing with civilians the video clips of "real
The "Army strong" campaign is produced by nine agencies, eight of
them part of the McCann Worldgroup division of the Interpublic Group
of Companies. The Army ad budget from 2006 through 2011 is estimated
at $1.35 billion.
The Army has met its recruiting goals for the first two fiscal years
during which the "Army strong" campaign has appeared. Critics of the
military's practices contend that bonuses being awarded to recruits
as well as less stringent entry standards have also helped meet the goals.
"We love the 'Army strong' campaign because it resonates with youth,"
General Freakley said, and it "says in a nutshell who our soldiers
are, that it is a strength they get by serving."
"This is a progression, an evolution," he added, referring to the new
phase of the campaign.
In addition to the new content on goarmy.com, there will be new TV
commercials, meant to help drive traffic to the Web site. The first
ones compare the Army to a company, a team and a school by showing
young men and women in settings like an office building, a gym and a
campus. The scenes shift into scenes of soldiers performing military
tasks like marching and saluting the flag.
In the gym commercial, young athletes are seen working out, then
stacking sandbags. "There is a team like no other team in the world,"
says the narrator, the actor Gary Sinise, who took over the narration
work for the campaign last year from the actor Josh Charles.
"When they raise their flag in victory, you will know what these men
and women are fighting for," Mr. Sinise says, "and you will feel
fortunate to be counted among them."
In the office commercial, young workers in business attire suddenly
start climbing walls. "This company is filled with dreamers," Mr.
Sinise says, "but they also have courage, strength and honor, and
when they leave this company it will be with a thousand opportunities
and the respect of millions."
The intent is "to show the Army in a way you haven't thought about
it," said Craig Markus, executive creative director at McCann
Erickson Worldwide in New York, one of the McCann Worldgroup agencies
working on the campaign.
"Obviously, the buzzword right now is 'relevance,' " he added, "and
we're trying to talk to people in a way that's relevant to them at the moment."
Coincidentally, it turns out the campaign was developed months before
the start of the steep economic downturn. The growing unemployment
rate could benefit the Army because young men and women may enlist
rather than search fruitlessly for work.
"History will tell you that's true," Mr. Markus said, "but I'm not
going to predict what may happen."
The other McCann Worldgroup agencies working on the campaign are:
Casanova Pendrill, for ads aimed at Hispanics; the IW Group, for ads
aimed at Asian-Americans; Momentum, for event marketing and
sponsorships; MRM Worldwide, for the Web site, digital marketing and
direct marketing; NAS Recruitment, for medical recruiting; Universal
McCann, for media planning and buying; and Weber Shandwick, for
Another agency, Carol H. Williams Advertising, is creating ads aimed
at African-American recruits.
Other changes the Army is making include reworking the content of the
Virtual Army Experience, a traveling interactive exhibit with games
and other displays that is intended for an audience as young as 13.
There have been complaints that the exhibit is inappropriate because
it makes combat seem to be fun.
"If we show the Army fighting, people say it's violent," General
Freakley said. "If we don't, people say it's not truthful."
The new content for the exhibit will concentrate on the peaceful
purposes the Army can serve, he added, like providing humanitarian aid.
The new elements of the "Army strong" campaign aimed at so-called
influencers like parents are scheduled to start in January. Such ads
have been part of the campaign since it began in 2006.