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The Army is in crisis. As I wrote in Secretary of the Army Guarantees a Lot of Young Soldiers Will Die but Has the Right Thoughts and Feelings:
The US Army is a barking shambles. In Fiscal Year 2022, the Army missed its recruiting goal by 15,000 soldiers or 25% of its goal (Military Recruiting Numbers Lowest Since the Vietnam War). At the end of the fiscal year, the Army was supposed to have 485,000 soldiers, but it only had 466,000. That shortfall of 19,000 soldiers is the equivalent of disbanding five of the Army’s 31 brigade combat teams. While we can quantify the number of soldiers not enlisted, what is much more difficult is to put a number on those who have voted with their feet because of Army leadership that has become highly politicized and the men — fathers, teachers, coaches, and family members — who will actively discourage young men from enlisting because the Army no longer represents American values (Army Backs off Enlisting High School Drop Outs but the Woke Cancer Killing Enlistments Remains Stronger Than Ever).
Last week, the US Army rolled out a new advertising campaign to try to staunch the hemorrhaging of its end strength. This campaign reintroduces the classic “Be All You Can Be” slogan developed for the US Army Recruiting Command by the N. W Ayer advertising agency in 1980. It replaces the unnoticed “What’s Your Warrior” slogan that replaced the equally derided “Army Strong” and “Army of One” campaigns.
This latter campaign included the disastrous “The Calling” series of ads that were so bad the Army had to close comments on YouTube.
I’ve written about that ad series before in Army Backs off Enlisting High School Drop Outs but the Woke Cancer Killing Enlistments Remains Stronger Than Ever:
The most recent Army advertising campaign had zero ads aimed at working-class or middle-class white males (Two of the five profiles are immigrants. Three of the five profiles are women. Three of the five are officers. None of the examples are combat arms…I know the Aviation branch claims to be, but they are delusional.). However, it did feature a “Heather Has Two Mommies” archetype.
So far, we’ve seen two parts of the ad campaign. First, there is the low-energy “trailer.”
There are unintentional jokes. At 1:09, the current Army Chief of Staff General James McConville says, “winning matters.” After Iraq and Afghanistan, I find this to be the opposite of Army policy. There is also a very conscious racial bean-counting going on in the video to the extent that it misrepresents the racial/ethnic makeup of the Army.
It was followed up with this one called “Overcoming Obstacles,” featuring actor Jonathan Majors. Full disclosure: I had to look him up on Wikipedia.
I’m not sure how this is designed to appeal to a 17-21-year-old market that only a year ago we were told weren’t enlisting because a) they couldn’t meet enlistment standards, b) the civilian job market was super tight and c) they were deterred by “the possibility of injury or death, and fear of developing PTSD or other psychological problems.”
Even when showing the Army’s history, the wokeness is unmistakable. For instance, the Civil War is wholly omitted. But at least they managed to get through it without gay sex, so there is something to be thankful for.
While better than the trailer and having great production values, like the trailer, this ad was produced to impress the brass on the Pentagon’s E-Ring and maybe win an advertising award. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything in it that appeals to what we know motivates people to join the Armed Forces. The fact is that most Americans of enlistment age can’t even tell you what events are being depicted and draw any meaning from them.
When building an ad program that expects images to resonate with young adults, you have to choose the correct imagery. The Army is, in my opinion, using a sales pitch that half of the target audience rejects. This chart is from the “More in Common” research report titled American Fabric: Identity and Belonging.
There are a lot of factors contributing to the Army’s recruiting Armageddon. The ability of an advertising campaign to overcome popular culture, deliberate denigration of American history and patriotism, and technological changes which limit the reach of recruiters is minimal. This ad isn’t going to turn Army recruiting around, it isn’t even going to make a difference, but it may make the upper leadership feel better about themselves while failing.
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