McCann Creatives Forced To Be “Army Strong”

Not sure if you need to be a subscriber to read the whole thing, but Adweek has an interesting report on the McCann creatives who underwent basic training in order to fully understand life in the US Army so they could work on their new account:

By his second day of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Craig Markus had had enough. A day earlier, Markus—lead creative on McCann Worldgroup’s U.S. Army account— and 55 of his colleagues had been greeted at the airport by drill sergeants who barked commands and demanded prompt compliance. Now, he was on his second day of 4:30 a.m. wake-ups, followed by push-ups, sit-ups, marching and drills. The Army wanted to make sure that the New York ad executives fully grasped the line they had presented to win the account last December: “Army strong.”
“It was incredibly humbling,” says Markus. “Every person I meet in the Army is truly amazing—what they’re offering to this country, the sacrifices they’re willing to make. These are the people you want fighting for you whether you agree or disagree with the fight.”
The self-described patriotic liberal says some peers have reacted negatively to his working on the account. They equate selling the Army with selling cigarettes. Or worse. As leader of the free world, he answers, the U.S. needs a strong Army, even in peace time.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Why the hell is this news? Is it unusual for an company to live and breathe a brand that they’re working for? It’s part of our freakin’ process. How else can you begin to understand them? Come on, McCann. Getting your hands dirty is the best part of this job.

  2. War, what is it good for; absolutely nothin'! says:

    Whatever. No way would you ever catch me working on that account, more-so than any other. And since I am not in advertising, I won’t ever have to.
    As far as living and breathing a brand, is the suggestion that, for instance, a man could not work on Tampax because he, uh, lacks the vagina?
    I think it is pretty clear what the Army brand is without having to go to boot camp, but if the creative team is game,then that’s their decision to make.
    Point being, many insights can be made without having to live something…it’s called empathy.

  3. Nay, nay, Mister Good For.
    Only a handful of assumptions can be made without insight. And those assumptions are usually just preconceived notions. Without digging in and actually becoming a part of that culture, all you’re doing is spitballing, which is very dangerous.
    By immersing yourself in a company and its culture you see things from a totally different perspective. It opens up your mind to new sights, sounds and experiences. Something you could never garner from sitting on your couch watching a slanted CNN report and playing arm-chair anything.

  4. That's 'Ms.' Good For says:

    Hey Spike,
    You are funny, and I totally respect your point of view. Please allow me to blather on…
    As anthropologists, philosophers, et al have attempted to gain insight into other cultures and what makes human beings do the things we do, it seems that I do not need to live your life, for instance, to gain insights about what motivates you. Or you, the demographic that makes up the potential Army clan. Getting the young men and women there, into the army, I suspect involves speaking with them while THEY are in a very different mindset from where they find themselves once IN BOOTCAMP.
    Complete understanding is a different matter, but insight is possible through observation, reading, and being around a “subject” with the desire to truly understand, among other things.
    Still, no way any man will ever understand what it is like to be told your pregnant. Can a man have insight as to what that feels like? Of course. Will he ever fully and completely understand it? No.
    So we’re on the same side, really. But boot camp? Come on? How about just renting Private Benjamin and Full Metal jacket, reading the Art of War, and calling it a day somewhere in the middle?

  5. Ethical questions are woven into the very fabric of advertising. It’s one of the things that keeps it interesting.

  6. Forgive me, “Ms. Good” and thanks for the follow-up. I do see where you’re coming from, and I also respect your views.
    But watching a person walk a mile and then walking a mile in their shoes is a totally different thing. Insight is just scratching the surface. We have approached clients with ideas already in our head – that are mostly what we get from the world around us – but when we “walk a mile in their shoes,” we have seen things we were totally wrong about and, more importantly, found things that we never would’ve if we had just bought the Cliff notes and rented the movie (which is someone else’s views).
    We are an identity company. And everything we do is based on insight and delving into a company’s culture. It’s digging deep and getting our hands dirty while living and breathing a brand.