The Army's new ad campaign re-ups a slogan from the 1980s.

The Army's new ad campaign re-ups a slogan from the 1980s. U.S. Army

Army Targets Gen Z In New Ad Campaign

The service released its new ads several months ahead of schedule to meet the “the most challenging recruitment environment in years,” Sec. Wormuth said.

Beaming with excitement after watching new Army recruitment videos released as part of a major drive to recruit his military-shy generation, 17-year-old Army recruit Tristan Harris had only good things to say.

“I’m here to be all I can be,” said the rail-thin prospective Army diver, echoing the videos’ 80s-throwback slogan after being sworn in by the Army Chief of Staff as part of the public launch of the ad campaign yesterday. 

The Army is hoping its $117 million Generation Z-tailored marketing push will make a lot more of Harris’s friends feel the same way, allowing the Army to meet ambitious goals during “the most challenging recruitment environment in years,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said. 

Generation Z—people born after 1997—have workplace characteristics that separate them from past generations, according to research by consulting firm McKinsey. 

McKinsey’s survey found that 18- to 24-year-olds reported higher levels of mental stress than past generations, and reported greater physical and mental problems with their work performance. A separate study by the Deloitte consulting firm found that the generation is also more ethnically diverse than past ones, and value salary less. 

The Army’s new ad campaign seeks to appeal to Generation Z’s interest in community and a sense of purpose, Wormuth said. In the first two videos released Wednesday, many scenes played up the Army’s social role, highlighting exploration, technology, and disaster relief, as well as its diversity. The ads also featured combat scenes, but from what might be the Revolutionary War and World War II, not from Afghanistan or Iraq. 

Another video was released Monday, featuring soldiers speaking the campaign slogan “Be All You Can Be,” a call-back to a well-known 1980s campaign that used the same tagline. 

The campaign’s slogan was chosen from hundreds and isn’t meant to be nostalgic. Still, many among the recruit’s parents and mentors, a population that the campaign specifically seeks to target, may find it reassuring. 

The original tagline, which premiered the same year the Army’s current chief of staff graduated from West Point, has “stuck with me for over 40 years,” Gen. James McConville, himself a father of three soldiers. 

The campaign also leans on its lead, Jonathan Majors, who was chosen for his popularity among Generation Z, said Maj. Gen. Alex Find, chief of Army Enterprise Marketing. The actor, who features in Marvel movies and the recently released Creed III, spoke at the ceremony describing his grandfather and father, both veterans. 

The videos are the first tranche of a large ad campaign that will roll out during the March NCAA tournament and will eventually include what the Army calls “partnerships” with video game website IGN and culture magazine Complex.

The Army launched the campaign five months earlier than planned in a bid to make this year’s recruiting goal of 65,000 new soldiers, Wormuth said. Last year, the Army fell 25 percent short of its 60,000-person goal. She said the Army has no particular metrics for measuring the success of its ad campaign.

The ad campaign is part of a broader push by the Army to boost recruitment. Efforts include a referral program, outreach to school principals, and what Wormuth described as a surge to 15 “must-win” cities. The Army is also keeping 420 of the Army’s top recruiters past the end of their tour date, upping signing bonuses, and has created a prep course to get prospective soldiers up to the necessary physical and academic standards. 

Army leaders also hope the ad campaign will help in its efforts to recruit outside of military families. 

Some 83 percent of soldiers have another family member who served in the military, McConville said. “We’re becoming a military family business” McConville said, “we want to become an American family business.” 

In that sense, 17-year-old Parris, sworn in by McConville after the media launch, didn’t exactly break the mold: his father has served in the military. Twenty-two-year old Michael Drayton, standing next to him, said he also had relatives who had served. 

Parris said the military’s promise of letting civilians do something they’d rarely get to do otherwise is also a powerful lure. 

“Where in the civilian sector could I be a diver?” said Parris, who, like his fellow recruit Harris, aims to be an Army diver. “I saw a chance that really resonated with me and I took it.”