Retired Army LtCol Allen B. West writes about the new scandal that is rocking though those in charge of advertising the Army image. As Mr. West points out, there have been some really catchy Army recruiting ads in the past. Army Strong was one of those that did well for recruiting. Heard any good ones lately? Neither has the Colonel. And look, there is a scandal there.
As Written By Allen B. West:
Some of you may remember the old Army recruiting theme, “Be All You Can Be.” I do, and it was one of the most popular marketing themes in its day. I also remember the motivational song from the 80s “We Were There.”
Those two themes were a rallying cry to serve in the U.S. Army that I will never forget. It called to the very patriotic spirit to be a part of something that was historic and honorable. Those words reminded one of the motto of the US Army, “This We’ll Defend,” and you gained an immense pride is carrying that title, U.S. Soldier. For me, being a Soldier was my raison d’être, as it was my dad, a World War II Soldier, who challenged me to be the first commissioned officer in our family. It was about joining a legacy of service, sacrifice, and commitment to my nation. What better marketing tool was needed?
Late in my career as a Soldier, I watched the Army succumb to the culture and change that venerable theme of “be all you can be.” The new theme became “Army of One”, and we all chided the commercial that showed a young Soldier with no weapon, no helmet, out of uniform, and running the opposite direction of the tanks, helicopters, and other Soldiers. To us Soldiers, it appeared that this “Army of one” was a deserter, running away from the sound of battle…I guess that’s what Bowe Bergdahl was doing? The Army later came up with a new theme, “Army Strong”, which many of us thought was solid…we loved the tag line, “there’s strong, and then there’s Army Strong!” Now, today, I don’t really know what the Army recruiting theme is…but I do know it hasn’t been exactly memorable and a new report suggests it’s a colossal waste of money in any event.
As reported by AdWeek.com, “The results of an internal audit of the U.S. Army’s budget question the effectiveness of the hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars the organization spends on marketing and advertising each year. Its conclusions call many of these programs “ineffective,” claiming that the majority do not justify the costs.
“An audit of our outreach efforts is not yet complete, and any comment on the findings would be premature,” said a spokesperson for the Army Marketing and Research Group, or AMRG, in response to a related query. The audit launched in 2016 during a still-ongoing competitive review for the Army’s marketing account, which could concern up to $4 billion in spending over a period lasting as long as 10 years, according to Department of Defense estimates.
A series of U.S. government documents acquired by Adweek also appear to indicate a conflict of interest involving the AMRG and McCann Worldgroup, which has been the Army’s agency of record since 2005. A McCann representative deferred to the client for comment. This development follows an earlier Adweek report in which Department of Defense sources claimed that the review had been “compromised” due to allegations of an improper relationship between executives at AMRG and McCann. The Army leader in question, James Ortiz, was removed from his position, but remains employed by the U.S. government.
Adweek acquired a summary of the audit’s findings, dated Oct. 5, 2017 and titled “The Army’s Marketing and Advertising Program, Return on Investment.” This document states that, in fiscal year 2016, the AMRG failed to reach all but one of its six established performance goals. “In addition, our analysis showed that only 3 of the 23 (about 13 percent) marketing programs generated a positive impact during the year,” it reads.
The document goes on to claim that the AMRG spent more than $930.7 million from 2013 to 2016 “on marketing efforts that potentially didn’t provide best value to support Army recruiting,” noting that 20 different programs costing a collective $36.8 million in 2016 alone “didn’t demonstrate a positive return.” The summary continues, “For [fiscal years 2018-2023], AMRG would continue to use about $220 million for the same ineffective marketing programs.”
The greatest recruiting tool for the U.S. Army, our military, isn’t about advertising dollars. It’s about the legacy of service. My desire to be a Soldier came from knowing of my dad’s service as a Soldier. And today, my nephew’s desire to be a Soldier came from his being ……..
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