DIRECT: MARKETING CHALLENGE - How Saatchis has brought consistency to Army recruitment

Meg Carter discovers how the Army has managed to become marketing literate in a drive for new recruits.

Meg Carter discovers how the Army has managed to become marketing

literate in a drive for new recruits.

Repositioning the Army as a career of first instead of last choice was

one of the key challenges for Saatchi and Saatchi when it picked up the

Army recruitment account in April 1994. Now entering its third year, the

campaign has outperformed expectations and picked up a number of

industry accolades along the way.

Until Saatchis took over the account, recruitment for Army officers was

handled at arm’s length from recruitment for lower-ranked soldiers and

the Territorial Army: Collett Dickenson Pearce formerly handled officers

and soldier recruitment and the Territorial Army was handled by Delaney

Fletcher Bozell. But by the early 90s, with a steep decline in the

Army’s 16- to 24-year-old target market thanks to a rise in the number

moving into further education and a steady downturn in the birth-rate,

new tactics were required.

’In many people’s minds there was, perhaps, a view that we didn’t need

to advertise for recruits,’ says Colonel Rory Clayton, head of marketing

at the Directorate of Army Recruitment - a role created only last


Following the end of the Cold War, talk was of scaling down, not up, the

armed forces. ’But an army is a dynamic entity which must be kept young

and vibrant, irrespective of down-sizing,’ Colonel Clayton explains.

So, the DAR got marketing literate. ’We began by looking at the people

we were trying to recruit as customers,’ he adds. The directorate

started to examine more keenly just who it needed to target, how well it

was performing, how well supported its recruitment strategy was by

advertising and marketing and how it could more efficiently work with

its agency suppliers.

The appointment of a single agency to handle recruitment was a major

step forward, Colonel Clayton believes. ’Dispersal of resources meant it

was just not possible for activities to be grouped within a single

brand.’ Saatchis, however, has successfully developed an umbrella

identity for Army recruitment within which the Army’s five core career

options sit. Communication of this is conducted via a multi-layered,

integrated communications and marketing campaign.

Officers had traditionally been regarded as distinct from other ranks,

Jeremy Pyne, Saatchis’ group account director, explains. ’Our vision was

to explore the merits of a single campaign that could be used across

three different areas: officers, soldiers and the TA.’ The task was

complicated not just by demographic trends, but by public ignorance and

misunderstanding of just what the army is and does, Belinda Huckle,

account director at Saatchis, adds.

Saatchis’ campaign had three objectives: to encourage high-quality

candidates to apply, to create a consistent image for the Army and to

address just what the Army does. An umbrella strapline, ’be the best’,

was devised.

TV and press ads followed a creative strategy centred around


In each execution, the consumer was presented with some form of test -

either to consider what they would do in a given situation, or, in one

case, to fill in a minute coupon requesting further information (the

more inventive would realise they needed to enlarge the ad on a


’Research showed the Army has a negative image in career terms -

generally, it enjoys respect but not as ’a job for me’,’ Pyne adds. So

the campaign had to outline the range of opportunities and experiences a

successful applicant could expect.

To make a limited budget stretch further, the campaign was designed to

be integrated both horizontally and vertically, so, an ad for officers

would also stimulate calls from people interested in becoming soldiers,

and vice versa’. Meanwhile, every communication, ranging from direct

mail to merchandising and a Website, had to follow the tone and style of

the TV and press work.

Direct mail was used to target particular groups - notably, students -

with innovatively designed packs distributed to selected colleges and

delivered direct to students’ pigeon holes.

Details are now being finalised for the development of the campaign in

1997/8 and beyond. An Army Recruitment ’campaign bible’ will be

published in April outlining every detail of tone, style and strategy

for the division’s 800 recruitment staff around the UK. Colonel Clayton

also hopes that greater use will be made of tactical opportunities.

’Our market is a youth market that changes fast,’ he says. ’In a

volatile environment, we must look at marketing as a microsecond

activity - you must manage it on a daily basis. If it doesn’t work

today, change it tomorrow.’

So far, the campaign has achieved impressive results with officer and

soldier recruitment levels rising, campaign awareness running at 95 per

cent among men aged 16- to 24-years-old, and a significant improvement

in the image of an Army career. There is also evidence that those

entering the selection system are better informed - proving that tougher

ads have reduced the number of inappropriate enquiries and so reduced

admin costs.


IPA Recruitment Advertising Awards - ’Trust’ voted best use of


Campaign Poster Advertising Awards - ’15,000’ voted best poster


Aerial Awards - ’Soldier challenge’ voted best radio campaign

Direct Marketing Awards - Best integrated campaign

’World challenge’ Netsite voted third best in electronic media.


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