MoD issues defence after 'Snowflake' army ad soldier threatens to quit over backlash

Last week, the British Army's ad agency Karmarama unveiled the 'Your Army Needs You' campaign / British Army

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has insisted that all volunteers featured in the British Army's controversial 2019 recruitment posters were "fully informed" about the tone and style of the ads, following claims from a Scots Guardsman to the contrary.

Last week, the British Army's ad agency Karmarama unveiled the 'Your Army Needs You' campaign, which alongside TV ads featured posters in the style of Lord Kitchener's famous WWI drive.

Playing on Gen Z stereotypes, Karmarama's creative implied that attributes perceived as a weakness or flaw in young people were seen as a strength by army recruiters. For instance, the 'compassion' of 'snowflakes' and the 'self-belief' of 'me me me millennials' were touted as skills that would be useful in the forces.

The campaign divided commentators and controversy has been fueled by soldier Stephen McWhirter (whose face is visible on the 'Snowflake' poster) after he took to Facebook to accuse the army of leaving him open to ridicule, claiming that while he agreed to the use of his photo he did not know the context and that it would be used alongside the word 'Snowflake'

In later posts he said he would resign at the soonest opportunity.

However, Colonel Ben Wilde, assistant director of army recruiting, issued a statement hitting back at the suggestion that those who featured in the campaign weren't briefed on its tone.

"The soldiers who took part in this campaign were all volunteers who understand that the army needs to reach out to all parts of society to find the best people for its ranks," he said.

"The volunteers gave their permission to appear on TV and in the posters and were fully informed about the striking language and how it would resonate with young people with a wide variety of valuable skills."

The Drum has reached out to Karmarama for further information. At the time of writing, the Accenture-owned firm had yet to respond.

The recruitment push has courted some controversy for "insulting" millennials and being "out of touch". Although, for Dan Cullen-Shute, chief executive and founder of creative shop Creature of London the ads have "got everyone talking".

"It also looks beautiful. I make no apology for applauding that," he wrote in The Drum.

Responding to criticism on Twitter that the campaign copy had been written "by an old man", Shute added: "I don’t believe you have to be the target audience to write about the target audience. I know that’s a slightly contentious belief to hold nowadays, but I stand by it.

"It’s our job in advertising to understand people brilliantly, and then to craft compelling stuff that makes them think, act, or feel differently. The idea that an old man would automatically be shit at writing for young women is as glib and misguided as the idea that a young woman would automatically be good at it. If writing adverts were as easy as being in the target audience, then it really wouldn’t be much of an industry."

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