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’,
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
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.