Why Does “An Army Of One” Need My Son?

Sun Times advertising columnist, Lewis Lazare, explores the rigorous work being done by Leo Burnett on behalf of the Army.

Gosh, it’s gotta be tough — crafting commercials that persuade parents to encourage their offspring to enlist in the Army, when almost every day we see and read of more carnage in Iraq.
And Iraq, of course, is just one of the battlefields where American soldiers find themselves stationed in what promises to be a long and potentially quite bloody war against terrorism and assorted other threats to the homeland.
But boy, is Leo Burnett, the U.S. Army’s agency of record — at least for the next couple of months — trying hard to make a compelling case for parents signing off on their kids’ signing up for military service.
A new series of what are being termed “influencer” spots make that case in often startlingly emotional terms.
We admit to being surprised at finding a bit of a lump in the throat as we watched a couple of these new commercials. They are populated with some fine actors who know how to plumb the emotional depths of a line of copy.

I’m not sure what’s so tough about it. If the parents in question are supporters of the President, then they most likely agree that a modern day Crusades is a good idea. Granted, if the parents oppose the sitting administration, no commercial is going to sway them.
Call me crazy, but I don’t see much opposition to this war, nor any of Bush’s policies for that matter. I guess we’re too busy working and pursuing the material objects that our commercial culture (of which advertising is the mouthpiece) claims will make us happy.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. WORD.

  2. You’re right, David, at least the part concerning a TV commercial’s inability to sway opinions on such a personal and serious subject. (Speaking as a guy who used to work on the Army account, anyway.)
    As for the opposition to the war, though, I think it’s fair to say that almost half the country is opposed to our invasion of Iraq (or at least the way it was carried out), and they voted accordingly last November.
    Trouble is, the effects of this war have yet to become truly personal for most Americans who don’t have loved ones in the Armed Forces. One can only wonder how “popular” the war would be if EVERYONE’S sons and daughters were to be drafted to help fight it. Talk is cheap, especially when people talk tough. If there were a draft, and this war truly began to hit home for most people, my guess is the ranks of the so-called “Security Moms” who claim to support the war in its current form would thin out faster than the Army’s recruiting numbers already have.
    However, as long as those folks keep receiving the reassurances they’ve been receiving since the war began

  3. Excellent points.
    But only a bit more than half of all eligble voters went to the ballot box last November. Thus, W’s mandate is a figment of his imagination, as 25%, give or take, does not a mandate make.
    As to conducting this illegal war, one huge lesson Bush, Rove & Co. learned from Vietnam is control the media at all costs, and they’ve done so perfectly. If you want access to this White House as a reporter (or network, for that matter), you must tow their line. There’s no other way.
    By keeping the gory truth from the screen, the administration can pretty much do whatever they want, no matter how outrageous. “Just keep ’em tuned to Desperate Housewives” is the order of our day.