Editorial: Army Everest campaign shows strength of ideas

Sometimes, you get the feeling clients and their agencies are trying something new - a blog, a podcast, a piece of branded content - just for the sake of being different. But there are other, rarer times when that something new is founded in a clever advertising idea and that is exactly what Publicis' latest Army recruitment campaign looks like.

The client and agency has sent a team of 21 soldiers to scale the infamous West Ridge of Mount Everest. If that were not enough, the soldiers are carrying cameras and technical equipment with them so they can broadcast video footage of their climb, which will be turned into a month-long TV campaign.

The Army as a brand is in dire need of good advertising. Recruitment figures, though they staged a partial recovery in 2005, have been on the slide for years and the situation has not been helped by the war in Iraq and newspaper allegations of prisoner abuse. Embattled but undefeated, the Army is now hoping that showcasing some of the non-combat situations recruits find themselves in will help make a career in the armed forces attractive again.

The first ad was broadcast on Easter Sunday and will be followed by further "episodes", plus press, posters and a radio campaign based on two-way conversations between the soldiers and base camp. As well as traditional media, the campaign also makes inventive use of newer methods: an RSS feed to the website that delivers news of the ascent as it happens; movie clips direct to mobile phones; podcasts and blogs of the climb and space on the website to register messages of support - Tony Blair has posted his. All are ideal ways to reach the Army's target young male audience.

The campaign will not have been cheap, but it has already generated a fair bit of media coverage and the key to its success lies in the fact it delivers content that people will be genuinely interested in - a group of soldiers climbing Everest almost sounds like the plot of a (good) reality TV show.

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