For several days I’ve been thinking about the US Army’s latest ad campaign, “The Calling,” which rolled out featuring an animated video about a real life soldier, Cpl. Emma Malonelord, who is a Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning System Operator (14H). As an aside there’s an $18K signing bonus for eligible recruits. This ad campaign will feature the stories of five soldiers, selected because of their diverse backgrounds, so naturally white males from traditional two-parent families aren’t represented. The five soldiers selected for this ad campaign should not be the targets of any backlash, because they responded to an Army-wide search for soldiers with personal stories to fit this ad campaign.
“”Research tells us that young people today see the Army as a ‘distant star’ – a place requiring a nearly superhuman level of discipline with little relevance to their daily lives,” said Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, Chief of Army Enterprise Marketing. “Similarly, youth don’t necessarily connect with those who serve or see common ground in terms of interests, abilities, and goals. ‘The Calling’ shatters these misperceptions by showing that Soldiers are all of us: real people with hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, families, friends, and obstacles to overcome.”
The Army conducted a worldwide search across the forces for Soldier stories to support the campaign, receiving nearly one hundred inspiring entries. After settling on a shortlist of potential candidates, stories were tested to assess their resonance with today’s youth. The final “cast” provides a rich tapestry of stories that represent the diverse upbringings and life experiences that make up today’s Army. Featured Soldiers include”
So, there’s the answer to how this new Army ad campaign began. Here’s the first video:
Watching this video, the focus was heavily on this soldier’s lesbian mothers and participating in left-wing activism. The ad pushed left-wing, feminist political messaging, along with too much “I” messaging for my taste and no team messaging, although to be fair this ad is not even close to as awful as the “Army of One” ad campaign disaster. The interesting thing was in the article explaining how this new ad campaign was developed, there’s a quote about what message they intended to promote, which left me wondering how on earth they completely missed the mark with the narrative in this animated ad:
“‘The Calling’ showcases how five Soldiers answered their call to selfless service,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles K. Masters II, sergeant major of Army Enterprise Marketing. “Soldiers across the Army stepped up to share their personal stories with America to breakdown the stereotypes associated with those who serve. Their inspiring stories highlight the diversity in the Army as we continue to be a Team made up of great people. One common thread you will see throughout this campaign is our Soldiers all believe in something bigger than themselves and strive to make a difference in the world.””
There is absolutely no messaging in that animated ad that speaks to selfless service or being part of a great team. The Army jumped into the fray about this ad, which followed the CIA rolling out woke recruitment ads too, and defended Cpl. Malonelord. Again, the important thing is this soldier responded to an Army request for submissions for an ad campaign and she was selected. She does not deserve any criticism or attacks. She didn’t script the messaging for this animated ad. In fact, she’s photogenic, bright, bubbly and presents a very positive image when she speaks. So, here’s a video US Army Fort Benning put out after the animated ad backlash:
The Army could have saved millions of dollars and just had this soldier speak for herself, because she’s got a winning personality. The messaging in this video effort was much better, as Malonelord spoke about the Army as a melting pot, with people from all over the world and all types of backgrounds and that’s one of the things I love most about the Army community.
Of course, the Twitter political class got invested in fighting over this Army ad and it’s now a partisan spin battle with feminist, Army vet, Senator Tammy Duckworth attacking conservative Senator Ted Cruz for his criticizing that animated Army ad and retweeting a tweet, that compares a Russian army ad compared to this US Army cartoon ad:
And in usual Twitter spin battle fashion, Senator Duckworth accused Cruz of spreading Russian propaganda, but by today her spin attack was asserting the tweet isn’t Russian propaganda, but white nationalist propaganda. I have no idea who tweeted this comparison initially, nor do I even care. The point is this US Army animated ad rollout disaster should have been anticipated, just by paying attention to the negative reactions to the recent CIA woke recruitment ads.
I was more curious about who put this ad campaign together and how much it cost. At the end of the article describing The Calling ad campaign article was this bit of information:
“About the Army Enterprise Marketing Office (AEMO): AEMO is the U.S. Army’s national marketing, marketing research and analysis and accessions analysis organization. AEMO develops innovative and effective ways to: connect with the American public to make the Army more accessible and understood; increase awareness of both the benefits and value of Army service; and motivate the most qualified candidates to choose the Army as their service of first choice.”
Here’s a 2019 article:
“When it comes to marketing itself to the American public, the Army believes it’s in the midst of something of an identity crisis. Its research on the subject says nearly half of the young adults that make up its recruiting base have little or no knowledge of what military service is.
So for the first time in two decades, the Army is overhauling its more than $300 million advertising and marketing program. Effective Aug. 1, officials abolished the Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG) and replaced it with a new organization called Army Enterprise Marketing. Instead of a Pentagon headquarters, the new group will be based in the same city as DDB Chicago — the firm that won a $4 billion, ten-year contract last November to handle the Army’s advertising.
“Chicago was at the top of the list because it’s a center of learning for marketing and it’s a center of industry for marketing,” Dr. Casey Wardynski, the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs told reporters Thursday. “The [private sector] talent is already there. We don’t have to bring talent in.””
Seems like a lot of wasted money if this cartoon, which came about after an Army-wide search for compelling soldier stories and all sorts of market and data research, is supposed to energize Gen Z young people to… be all they can be… in the Army…
Update 5/24/2021: I linked the wrong video as the first story in The Calling ad campaign. Here’s Emma story: