The new campaign drive launched by the British Army, offering new recruits emotional support and a ‘place you belong’, has been slammed by officials for being ‘too politically correct’, ‘neglecting the main group of people who are interested in joining’ and being inefficient in helping to solve the ‘Army’s recruiting crisis’.
In this gender-challenged time, the new British Army’s multi-channel advertising campaign speaks to the new millennial by rejecting old stereotypes that fuel the typical army recruitment ads. It accomplishes this by using insights that young Britons relate to, which unfortunately may alienate older generations.
The public already has a brand image of the British Army, and these new messages complement that already-constructed image while broadening it by being inclusive, through featuring current soldiers asking: "What if I get emotional?", "Can I be gay in the Army?" and "Do I have to be a superhero?".
Arguments against the campaign say that the ad loses focus onthe typical message of trying to attract people who want to be soldiers and fight. I would say that this new campaign kills – with kindness.
I would question people who criticise these ads as being too politically correct and say they are stuck in the myth of the old British Empire. Those days are over, and the new ads demonstrate what it means to be an army: which is not to kill, but to understand and accept other ideologies, and promote them as part of the new British Army. Our days of colonising through aggression and stereotypes are over. We can lead the world through leadership and new ways of thinking.
In addition to having a unique message, these commercials use advertising tools and techniques that help the brand to ‘cut the clutter’ in order to stand out. UK urban consumers see over 5,000 messages a day and remember only 3 or 4. So by using ‘flowing’ animation; real soldiers’ voiceovers; and insights from contemporary society, the army has created a new audio/visual language that generates impact with future recruits.
Advertising does not have to shout to be effective. This campaign speaks directly to their specific target market in a convincing argument that breaks down century old myths in only a few seconds. The message creates awareness of the ‘new British Army’ by using insights to challenge the stereotype of the Army being unfriendly to people who would not be conventionally seen as soldiers and appeal different sexualities, ethnicities and faiths.
Ideologies are broadcast through paid and unpaid messaging, and governments are often nations’ biggest advertisers, as it is the case in Canada and Mexico. By broadcasting the Army’s contemporary ideology with advertising tools and techniques, the UK is populating its Army with forward thinkers ready for a changing world.
As contemporary global societies are moving towards being inclusive regardless of gender, race, religion or class, this controversial campaign decolonises the army myth and demonstrates a new British Army to the world.
Carl W. Jones is a Senior Lecturer in PR and Advertising at the University of Westminster, and Award Winning International Creative Director.