Close-Up: Live Issue - Army brings Everest attempt into living rooms

Army recruitment advertising streamed from the roof of the world should make compulsive viewing, Emma Barns writes.

More people have been to the moon than have conquered Everest via the treacherous West Ridge. So a team of British Army soldiers attempting it in a series of documentary-style ads over the next few weeks could make the ad break compulsive viewing.

The idea, masterminded jointly by the Army and its ad agency, Publicis, is to follow the team's journey with real-time footage filmed by the climbers.

This will be fed to a production team at Base Camp, who will stream it back to London, where it will be slotted into airtime booked throughout May.

The recruitment campaign aims to illustrate the non-combat training the Army undertakes at a time when the situation in Iraq has contributed to a big reduction in the sign-up rate. Grant Duncan, the Publicis chief executive, explains: "The ads will provide a dramatic example of how the Army organises itself - of its training, team-building and planning. It's a unique opportunity to dramatise what the Army brings to the individual."

The expedition will involve three teams each climbing a separate Himalayan peak. If bad weather affects one team, filming can be streamed from elsewhere. But a severe injury or a death could mean the whole project gets pulled.

The TV ads, airing on national and cable TV, will be shot as video diaries.

Duncan says: "We're not looking for anything slick and polished. There's a basic template with the key camps, but the guys are the ones on the mountain and they'll film whatever they film."

In addition to the TV ads, radio executions will be created using two-way radio conversations between the climbers and the Base Camp team, while a website, by Publicis Dialog, allows users to chart the teams' progress.

"The idea underpins previous recruitment campaigns," Duncan explains. "It's an emblematic version of what the Army does."

"It's our advertising strategy to show the opportunities that can be got from an Army career and this campaign dovetails with that," a spokeswoman for the Army Recruiting Group adds.

However, this idea is already garnering much more press interest than previous work. It will be a real example of content as advertising. Duncan says it could go even further, with the Ministry of Defence talking about programming: "The subject matter is exciting and it could be done with a broadcaster."

Leader, page 20.

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