THE BOOK OF LISTS: The 10 Best Recruitment Ads of All Time

campaignlive.co.uk, Tuesday, 17 December 2002 12:00AM

1. PARLIAMENTARY RECRUITING COMMITTEE LORD KITCHENER WANTS YOU 1914

The depiction of Lord Kitchener commanding young men to sign up has become an iconic image of this century. The line, "Your country needs you", was used as part of the same campaign to encourage young men to enlist. The poster formed part of a concerted and effective propaganda effort by the British government during World War I that was then criticised when the slaughter in the trenches became the subject of recrimination. The image spawned a thousand imitators, and the concept was adapted in the US by James Montgomery Flagg using the line: "I want you for the US Army."

Agency: Caxton Advertising

Artist: Alfred Leete

Copywriter: Eric Field

2. GLAVCOSMOS ASTRONAUT WANTED 1992

The simple copy of this recruitment ad made this a Campaign Press Award winner, and helped the Russians and British, who had teamed up for the first time in space exploration, find a British-born cosmonaut. The response generated from the ad, which ran in the broadsheet press, was enormous, according to Simon Dicketts. "Hundreds of people applied, and the wonderful thing was that the lady who was eventually picked for the job was from Mars. The food company, not the planet," he adds helpfully.

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi

Writer: Simon Dicketts

Art director: Fergus Fleming

3. SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON MEN WANTED 1900

Arguably the most successful recruitment advertisement ever, this was placed in London newspapers by the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton before his doomed polar expedition. Not only did he get the men he wanted (legend has it that 5,000 applied for just 28 positions) but they were all entirely suitable. One can only imagine what an advertising professional would have written to entice applicants and the unsuitable types lured by the promise of adventure and immortality.

4. PARLIAMENTARY RECRUITING COMMITTEE DADDY 1915

With this ad, the government took a softer approach than had been apparent in previous Army recruitment campaigns. The emotion conveyed in the poster, commissioned to encourage men to enlist, is summed up in the face of the father as he grapples with answering his daughter's question. The image, including the young boy playing with his soldiers, conveys a powerful and compelling image.

Artist: Saville Lumley

5. ALLIED FORCES IRISHMEN AVENGE THE LUSITANIA 1915

On 1 May 1915, the Lusitania left New York for the final time. On 7 May, with the coast of Ireland in sight, German U-boat U-20 torpedoed the ship. She sank in 18 minutes taking 1,195 lives, 123 of them American. Although America did not immediately declare war on Germany, her sinking contributed to the mood that turned the tide of American public opinion against Germany and led the US to join the Allied cause in World War I. This poster is one of many developed after the disaster in a bid to increase recruitment.

6. THE ARMY SELECTION BOARD 1973-80

John Salmon and Arthur Parsons' campaign effectively changed the way the Army recruited, mainly because the newspapers were full of stories about dangerous conflicts during which men were killed. "It was impossible to sell a career in the Army as before - with the promise of sun-downers on the terrace and seeing the world - because the target audience could see what it was really about on the TV news," Salmon remembers. The result was a string of ads designed to change the perception of Army officers as public schoolboys and weed out unsuitable applicants. "'Selection board' told potential recruits what to expect from the process of being hired and from an Army career itself," Salmon adds.

Agency: CDP

Writer: John Salmon

Art director: Arthur Parsons

7. THE ARMY - RADIO SCRIPT TANKS 1996

This is a gripping piece of drama, which stood out because it made you want to listen and participate. The cutting between the hushed voiceover and the sound of the tanks is immensely effective and showed the real challenges facing soldiers.

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi

Writers: Jason Fretwell and Nik Studinski

8. METROPOLITAN POLICE SPITTING/CHASE/BURGLARY 1989

Before they created this famous recruitment ad showing a spitting skinhead, Neil Godfrey and Indra Sinha spent two months with the Metropolitan Police force. They interviewed scores of officers, experienced street life with the Vice Squad in Streatham, learnt to drive at Hendon Police Driving School and helped home beat officers calm battered wives. Other executions in the campaign included one confronting prejudice and another showing the importance of observance, and effectively conveyed the need for recruits to look beyond the initial image to fully understand a situation.

Agency: CDP

Writer: Indra Sinha

Art director: Neil Godfrey

Photographer: Don McCullen

9. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, SOCIAL WORK TERRIFYING/MYSTIFYING/FASCINATING 2002

These ads were part of a continuing effort from the government to encourage more people to take up a career in social work, and came during a year in which professionals came under scrutiny for their role during a number of high profile child abuse cases. COI says that, from a total adspend of £965,000, 25,925 telephone and website responses were logged. And out of those, and after five years of decline, numbers of applications are now up 8.3 per cent from last year.

Agency: D'Arcy

Writer : Justin Hooper

Art director: Christian Cotterill

Illustrator: David McKean

10. SHAUN MCILRATH AND IAN HARVEY THE PENIS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD 1999

Desperately seeking a good typographer while working at FCA!, Shaun McIlrath, now the creative director of the Chime-owned Heresy, and his then art director Ian Harvey rattled off an ad which beautifully illustrated just how important this skill is in advertising. They received more than120 applications from one appearance in Campaign, which was, as McIlrath remarked, "not bad" for such a niche market.

Agency: FCA!

Writer: Shaun McIlrath

Art director: Ian Harvey

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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