LONDON: Recruitment advertising for the British Army came in for a blast of criticism last month, but its creators have argued the need to look beyond the “18-30 holiday with helicopters and guns” approach if challenging targets are to be met.

Speaking at the DMA What’s Next event in London, Matthew Waksman and Andrew Webber of Karmarama, and Nick Terry, Recruiting Group (Capita & British Army), outlined the thinking behind This Is Belonging, a campaign which won the Grand Prix in the 2017 DMA (UK) Awards.

There is always a group of “core intenders” whose ambition is to join the Army, explained Terry, but their numbers are not great enough to fill the current gap – and “advertising actually does very little to influence their decision. We can’t afford to focus exclusively on that group”.

There is positive sentiment among the public generally for the Army, and they regard it as a good career choice – but for other people rather than themselves. The challenge then became to reposition the job as one that a target audience of 18-25 year-olds could envisage themselves doing and benefiting from.

“This is about a life-changing decision,” noted Waksman, “and everyone’s got a different life”, with a range of different factors influencing whether they might or might not join the Army.

Hence the change of pace, moving away from imagery around adventure and travel, fitness and confidence building, skills and qualifications, to focus on the sense of belonging that real soldiers consistently reference.

This Is Belonging used data to drive personalisation on a mass scale. And it delivered results: Terry reported a huge increase in completed applications and a reduction in the cost per application. The campaign increased the total application pool by 40%, he added.

The next iteration of the campaign, which drew the ire of blimpish characters in January, is designed to move it on from benefits to attainability – from showing the camaraderie to challenging preconceptions about the type of person who fits in.

This has included depictions of Muslim and gay soldiers and men expressing emotions, which, predictably, dismayed certain media outlets and some ex-soldiers.

The subsequent publicity meant the campaign had a greater impact than it might otherwise have done, Terry noted. “There was negativity but a huge amount of positivity as well.”

There’s a fine line to tread, he acknowledged, “but we have to stick to our beliefs and what works best for our audience, to try to overcome the barriers they have and try and show them the Army is respectful, fair, tolerant and a diverse, inclusive employer that reflects the nation they’re there to protect.”

Sourced from WARC, The Week