17 January 2010

Army Recruiting Commercials--A Look Back, A Look Around...

Once I start looking at videos on Youtube, I find it difficult to stop. Such was the case today, when I ran across the Army's latest recruiting video aimed at attracting and training more officers. It's been out for a while, so this is old news, but I still think it's one of the best recruiting videos I've seen. Take a look:

This got me looking at a lot of recruiting ads on Youtube, some for the US Army, some for the other branches, and some for foreign militaries. Since it's grey day in Upstate NY, I decided to take a look at at all of them--the good, the bad, and the unintentionally funny.

I'll start off with a classic from 1981. To this day, many people still remember this particular ad from nearly 30 years ago--I suspect it's largely due to the fact that it appears to be the first time the Army used the slogan "Be All [That] You Can Be", as well as the catch phrase "We do more before 9 AM than most people do all day". Until I saw this video, I had no idea where that phrase came from.

Notably dated military equipment in this video include a jeep, the paratrooper's steel helmet (introduced in WW2 and phased out in the mid-80s), and the sleeves on the uniform rolled inside-out.

When I was a cadet, I used to hear all sorts of urban legends surrounding this commercial. Most Soldiers from Fort Bragg used to swear that the lead character in this film was kicked out for drug use. Others claimed--more credibly--that the lead character was actually an actor. This wouldn't be entirely unprecedented; the Army has used actors in recruiting commercials in the past, including a very young John Travolta:

I guess it's a different world these days. Boasting about a private's salary in a recruiting ad would be downright laughable today, and our politically correct world would never showcase the smart-looking women in uniform and hula girls one is bound to meet while in the service.

Anyway, this blog wouldn't be called "Wings Over Iraq" if I didn't provide video of Army helicopters in action, so here we go. First is a commercial featuring an air traffic controller from the early 80s. I think this one is notable for the fact that it attempts to break many of the negative stereotypes and stigmas about women in the military that existed during that time, with the announcer saying "it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman...all that matters is that you're good". Also note that the air traffic controller is wearing the old green fatigues, and the pilots have the old SPH-4 flight helmets.

"Apache...there's nothing hotter". I think the Army should have at least provided a video of an Apache barrel-rolling, but that's just me.

And, of course, after Desert Storm, anything in desert camouflage was cool. Check out the old school "chocolate chip" pattern, as well as the AH-1 Cobra helicopters in this 1992 commercial. The Cobra helicopter would be phased out of the Army five years later, after 25 years of service, and the "chocolate chip" pattern would be phased out in the mid-90s.

Added note: Is the Soldier in this commercial seriously sniffing the ground for tank scent?

Moving along, there was a discussion at BlackFive a while back regarding the worst recruiting ads of all time. Now, while there have been many great recruiting commercials for the US Marine Corps in the past, there have been a few baffling ones.

A few years ago, I engaged in some inter-service rivalry with a Marine friend of mine regarding recruiting commercials. I conceded that, while "An Army of One" was a bad recruiting slogan, it was at least better than the infamous "Marine vs. Lava Monster" commercial. I made the point that at least Army commercials were grounded in reality. Seriously, is a Marine in dress blues fighting a poorly-rendered CGI Balroq supposed to pull any emotional strings?

Moving across the pond, I have to say that the British have some interesting commercials about some of the stresses of modern warfare and counterinsurgency. They don't sugar-coat anything with these videos:

(Good counterinsurgency lesson)

Of particular interest is the British Army's new "Start thinking, Soldier" campaign, which puts you in the middle of some nail-biting situations. What I particularly admire is that these ads aren't portraying computer technicians or flight operations specialists, but rather, actual infantrymen in real situations. Take a look:

And again, while the US Army likes to showcase technical, non-combat jobs in its recruiting ads, the British Army fully celebrates its infantrymen in its recruiting films. This next video is part of a series of ads for all sorts of infantry jobs (airborne, air assault, mechanized, etc), but I think this one, for their air assault infantry, is the best. Of particular note is that the British military seems to encourage its troops to go out and have a good time on Friday nights.

I think I'm in the wrong military: first we have Britain's slutty Santa with an SA-80 slung over her shoulder, and now we have open a celebration of Friday night debauchery. We'd have a lot of groups--from liberal womens' rights advocates to conservative fundamentalists--protesting an ad campaign like that. But Great Britain gets my respect for not only taking a realistic outlook on sex and alcohol, but also not sugar coating the fact that Soldiers sometimes have to do a rough, tough job for their country. Hats off to them for a great commercial.

Next we go go Sweden. Take a look at the tank commander in this commercial:

Yup, female tank commanders. (Ahem, US Army, you might want to take note)

So that pretty much completes my Internet roundup of recruiting commercials from around the world. I'll leave you with one final commercial, courtesy of CollegeHumor.com. (Unfortunately, no embed. Sorry.)


SunJun said...

I liked this Australian one:


Of course, one can never forget the infamous Japanese Maritime SDF ads:



Thankfully, they've learned their lesson:


Their Air Force ones are interesting too:



Still, I suppose that when you don't have much to be proud of in your recent military history and your military's very existence is questionable on constitutional gruounds, it does limit what you can do for your advertisements...

SunJun said...

Oh, and I should ad that its pretty bad when your neighboring nation, which runs a conscript army, has more inspiring advertisements than you:


Eric C said...

The dumbest marketing move, in my opinion, is buying the url goarmy. Everytime I see it I pronounce it "Gwar-Mee" It really looks bad.

Paul said...

Regarding the Travolta ad, Army pay was a joke back then too. I can't remember exactly when it was introduced, but around that time the pay situation was so bad for the lower enlisted ranks that something like 50% of the force was on welfare and food stamps. It was impossible for a young soldier to bring his family to Germany -- he wouldn't be able to afford it. Congress voted a big pay raise -- enough that after the raise only about 20 to 25 percent of enlisted men's families were on welfare. After that, when the MVA (Modern Volunteer Army -- believe it or not, that's what it was called) was formed, pay went up substantially and for at least a little while things seemed pretty good.

Now, 35 years later, I suspect it's not so hot any longer. Congress will always fund additional C-17s that the Air Force didn't ask for than fund personnel, maintenance and operations fully (and that's exactly what they did this year -- 10 extra C-17s and cuts to personnel, maintenance and operations). Readiness? Who gives a s*it about that? There's no jobs for my district in readiness.

Starbuck said...

Paul: You're right--even adjusted for inflation (which was significant since the early 70s), $258 minus tax is hardly anything. Even if that amount of money is worth, say, ten times the amount now, that's still barely minimum wage. Imagine supporting a family with a stay-at-home spouse and a kid.

SunJun--cool ads!

Anonymous said...

There's a lot of quirky things that made training with the Brits fun. The "How's my driving?" bumper stickers on their tactical vehicles: "Army Driver. Be the Best. Am I?" and then a toll free number. The SA80's standard sling kicks the pants off of anything for the M16/M4 including the hooah slings from the catalog places, and the rifle itself is wonderful for patrolling.

On the other hand, their radios sucked and they don't put heat shields on their GPMG (M240 type) just like the Marines.

J. said...

Army Strong. My favorite commercial, even though it does feature Gen Casey.


Eric C said...

Hey, I'm reading Generation kill, and according to the author, the fire breathing monster ad influenced a lot of Marines to join up. Weird.