Advertising is war

Admitting he was a “bit surprised” himself by the results, MacIsaac says it was obvious respondents didn’t want something like the 1990s “There’s No Life Like It” campaign-an upbeat look at the job opportunities available in the Forces. “They told us that they wanted realism and transparency. They wanted to know what we were doing […]

NORMA RAMAGE October 02, 2006

Admitting he was a “bit surprised” himself by the results, MacIsaac says it was obvious respondents didn’t want something like the 1990s “There’s No Life Like It” campaign-an upbeat look at the job opportunities available in the Forces. “They told us that they wanted realism and transparency. They wanted to know what we were doing today.”

The result is two 90-second spots created by Publicis, Montreal that the military began testing in Atlantic Canada in mid-September. The first, which focuses on overseas operations in places like Afghanistan and Bosnia (though the spots were filmed in B.C.), targets 17- to 22-year-olds and is intended to increase recruitment for combat units, says Jennifer Hubbard, director of marketing and advertising services for the Department of National Defence in Gatineau, Que.

The second spot focuses on troops helping with home-front disaster relief and is aimed at a slightly older 17 to 34 demographic. It’s intended to raise awareness of what the military does in Canada. Tag lines on both read: “Fight Fear. Fight Distress. Fight Chaos. Fight with the Canadian Forces.” Focus groups suggested the military drop “fight terror.”

The $3-million campaign is part of a $15.5-million promotional budget the military hopes will recruit an additional 13,000 people for the regular forces within 10 years, 6,500 of them this year.

Although the ads have their detractors, Trevor McConnell, creative partner with Calgary’s Scout Communications, believes they’ll appeal to their target demographic. “Young people want honesty and integrity in their ads. I have a young son, and while they might not convince him to enlist, he will appreciate their truthfulness.”

Douglas Olsen, associate dean at the University of Alberta’s School of Business, shares McConnell’s view on the “frankness and honesty” of the ads and believes they will provide a bonus. “I think they will appeal to those already in the military, give them a degree of pride and bolster their desire to remain part of it.”

Although the two spots may be tweaked following public polling currently ongoing in Atlantic Canada, MacIsaac says the tone and look will remain the same when they’re rolled out nationally in a couple of months.

The ads are just one element of the military’s current recruitment drive. Another initiative is “Operation Up Connection,” which will raise the military’s profile in new places. Recent examples include a speech by a senior admiral at a mosque, and the presence of a tank at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. MacIsaac says military recruiters have been attending what he calls “Canada’s Big 7” events, including the CNE, Pacific National Exhibition, Calgary Stampede and the Winnipeg-Saskatchewan Labour Day CFL football game.

Even though the TV spots are first running in Atlantic Canada, where the military draws a disproportionate number of recruits, MacIsaac says a key to the military’s recruitment initiatives will be to move beyond its traditional rural, white base and reach out to urban, ethnic communities and young, first-generation Canadians.