NEW YORK: The US Army will implement “more stringent oversight” of its marketing spend after an internal audit concluded that tens of millions of dollars had been wasted on marketing initiatives in the fiscal year 2016.

That is according to Adweek, which used a freedom of information request to obtain a copy of a critical report from the US Army Audit Agency (AAA) that was delivered to military chiefs in mid-April.

The document found that 20 out of 23 programs, costing $36.8m in 2016, had not “generated a positive impact” and that, if these campaigns had continued unchecked, then the Army would have faced a bill of up to $220m from 2018 to 2023 with minimal ROI.

These mainly related to a series of national events aimed at recruitment, but the cost of gaining a potential recruit, or a “lead”, ranged from $362 to $6,470, with the National Hot Rod Association Tour identified as the least effective event.

The AAA also criticised the military, specifically the Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG), for failing adequately to evaluate performance, an absence of specific objectives and an inability to identify and discontinue projects that “aren’t cost-effective compared to other options”.

In response, the AMRG said: “Improved business practices will enhance our ability to measure the return on investment from the Army’s marketing programs.”

However, an unnamed official in the US Department of Defense told Adweek that AMRG’s budget has now been reduced significantly, while an AMRG spokesperson promised that there would be “more stringent oversight” of its marketing spend.

And in another development, Adweek acquired a series of emails in which AMRG staff discussed their relationship with McCann, the holding company currently in charge of US Army marketing.

With rivals WPP and Omnicom circling to take over the account after the Army put it up for review at the beginning of last year, the emails – written between 2014 and 2017 – revealed dissatisfaction with some historic projects overseen by McCann.

Some even accuse McCann of allegedly “overcharging” the US government for its services on a number of projects, such as a fitness app called Army Life Experience. McCann declined to comment on the Adweek story.

Sourced from Adweek; additional content by WARC staff