How do you get bored kids in dead-end McJobs to want to be part of something bigger than their present-day circumstances? For decades, military service has been framed as a way out and a way up. For kids who are not looking at college, the military offers training, pay, shelter, a sense of belonging and the promise of adventure.
These last two attributes–belonging and adventure–are the two at heart of the British Army’s new recruitment campaign, created by Karmarama (a London-based agency owned by Accenture).
The strategy is not new but the creative is a slight departure from the norm. The cinematography is richer and the storylines are too.
Dan Cullen-Shute, chief executive and founder of Creature of London, wrote an op-ed in The Drum about the campaign, which has been received with something less than praise in some quarters.
Whatever you think of the ads themselves, the strategy is fucking smart. In a world that can’t stop telling you how useless you are, there’s a home for you in the army.
Belonging. It’s what’s missing from people’s lives today, and the kind of universal truth needed to propel a great ad campaign forward.
The ads suggest that teen angst and isolation can be overcome in the British Army, which will not only offer you overseas adventures, it will help to reveal and then shape the real you. That’s the promise. Because you’re not a slacker, you’re raw talent in need of some direction.
“We understand the drive they have to succeed and recognize their need for a bigger sense of purpose in a job where they can do something meaningful,” Maj. Gen. Paul Nanson, who is in charge of recruitment and initial training, said in a statement.
A Dose of Valid Criticism
When you work in the ad agency business, there is no safe space where difficult clients do not exist. At any time, your agency might take on an objectionable (to you!) client. For some ad pros, working on tobacco or handguns would be a no. For others, working on a military account is a line crossed.
For sure, there’s plenty to object to in most military advertising, regardless of the quality of the ads themselves. For instance, The Guardian reported last summer that Britain’s Department of Defence used Facebook ads to target 16-year-olds, suggesting that a career in the army would still be open to them if they did not get the grades or test scores they hoped for.
Rachel Taylor, the director of programmes at Child Soldiers International, said: “Using Facebook to exploit the anxiety of those who may be disappointed with their GCSE results with idealised and unrealistic advertisements is shameful. These adverts prove once again that the MoD is deliberately targeting children at the lowest limit of the legal recruitment age to fill the lowest qualified, least popular and hardest-to-recruit army roles.”
I hear her criticism.
Now, let’s imagine for a minute what a realistic advert for the British Army or any army anywhere might look like. When you join the army, the reality is you might kill someone or be killed. That’s not a friendly message but it’s an unfortunate brand truth.