CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/ARMY RECRUITMENT - Matthew Cowen reviews a change in army recruiting in the light of the conflict

Almost exactly a year ago, the British Army signalled a revolution

within its marketing ranks as it ditched ads filled with uniformed

soldiers for scenes of young recruits putting their skills to use when

bedroom-hopping or fixing council estate goalposts.



The switch appeared to mark recognition among the services of the

increasingly mobile jobs market swirling around them. They would have to

compete for recruits on the same terms as private businesses - by

offering career-enhancing skills and qualifications rather than a

traditional job for life.



All the same, many at the time considered the change a risky

strategy.



The Conservative Party roared that by tempting recruits in this way, the

army risked filling its ranks with those who had joined for ulterior

motives - and had no real stomach for the dangerous task of

soldiering.



"We're certainly not for pulling the wool over people's eyes like we did

with Frank," responds Major Gavin Grant, the officer responsible for

marketing communications, who has painful memories of decade-old ads

featuring an arrow pointing to a jet-setting squaddie. "We got totally

the wrong kind of applicants," he added.



If the first phase of the army's new marketing identity produced some

heated disagreement, then the follow-up campaign can be expected to

trigger a greater clash of political wills. This week, Saatchi &

Saatchi's civvy-centred approach to army marketing is extended to

officer recruitment, the most conservative territory of all.



Saatchi's new cinema ad features a cast of men and women engaged in

everyday situations requiring inspirational leadership - and failing to

come up with the goods. To a mournful musical backdrop we see coaches

and chief executives trying and failing to inspire their charges. These

tales are followed by the army recruitment logo and the endline: "People

aren't easily led."



Saatchis has maintained the traditional distinction between the

recruitment of officers and that of their men.



The new ad is immediately more downbeat than last year's offerings. This

is in tune with past officer work, such as "homecoming", which showed

the tragic consequences of one bad decision. At the same time, the

transferable skills argument makes even more sense with officers.



The army wants to expand its pool of recruits and must compete with

merchant banks and chartered accountants for the best university

graduates.



"It's a natural aim for the campaign to try and explode some of the

myths that still exist about officers," Grant says. "A lot of people

would see nice, clever ads in the past but it would pass them by because

it wasn't on their career radar."



But can the transferable skills argument work for army recruitment when

current events are focusing our attention on the job's dangers? The army

has not shied away from launching the ads now. Its argument is that

conflict makes the point that the army is a serious business better than

any ad.



"It's always the case that people need to think about the implications

of what they're doing," Grant says.



"The commitment we expect people to make needs to be thought through by

both us and them."



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