On the face of it, ‘Forget teamwork, guys; just be yourself’, appears to be The Army’s new recruitment advertising message.

In a TV campaign breaking Thursday, the traditional ‘Be all you can be’ theme goes out of the window to be replaced by ‘An Army of one’ – which the army’s new ad agency, Chicago-headquartered Leo Burnett USA, hopes will appeal to the individualism and independence of today's youth.

The new approach is based on research which revealed that young people of both sexes see military life as dehumanizing and soldiers as faceless, nameless cogs in an impersonal military machine. The research also showed that those in the prime 18-24 recruiting age group wanted swifter gratification from signing up.

The ‘about-face’ is supported by outgoing Army secretary Louis Caldera (44) who has a master's degree from Harvard Business School and made the image makeover a priority when he accepted the post in July 1998.

However, he insists that the Army is not promoting self-centered behavior: "[New recruits] are going to get the ethic of selfless service, duty, honor and country in basic training and in every unit they are assigned to," Caldera reassures. "But you've got to get them in the door to try selfless service. And you've got to let them know that even though it is about selfless service, they are still individuals."

It is no coincidence that the Army has chosen slots within NBC’s popular sitcom ‘Friends’ to debut its new commercials this Thursday evening, rather than its traditional choice of Sunday football games.

Sensitive to criticizm for airing too many TV ads during sporting events, the ‘Friends’ platform is intended to help broaden the Army’s audience and shed its macho, male-only image. Other slots include ‘The Simpsons’ on Fox, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ on WB; also on MTV, Comedy Central and high school-targeted Channel 1.

Some treatments in the new campaign will be slanted towards minority communities, appearing on Spanish-language TV networks such as Univision and Telemundo.

News source: New York Times