WASHINGTON – In its battle to win the hearts and minds of recruiting-age Americans, the Army is replacing its main ad slogan — "An Army of One" — with one it hopes will pack more punch: "Army Strong."
The new approach, the fruit of a $200 million-a-year contract with a major advertising agency, was announced Monday by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey. He said "Army Strong" will be the centerpiece of a multimedia ad campaign to be launched Nov. 9, timed to coincide with Veterans Day weekend.
Army officials acknowledge that recruiting during wartime is difficult, particularly with the Iraq war grinding on far longer than Bush administration officials expected and U.S. troops dying in battle almost every day.
"There's no question that we want to have a marketing boost right now, it's important to us," said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, who oversees the recruiting effort as commander of U.S. Army Accessions Command.
The Army missed its recruiting target in 2005 by the widest margin in more than two decades, but bounced back this year to reach its goal of signing up 80,000 new soldiers, in part by offering bigger financial incentives, increasing its cadre of recruiters and making more use of Web sites to reach young people. It also has accepted more applicants with lower-tier scores on aptitude tests.
Van Antwerp acknowledged that negative news from Iraq "is a factor" that can inhibit young people from joining the Army, but he said the advertising campaign will not gloss over the risks of war. More than 2,700 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war began in March 2003.
"Every recruiter will tell you, there is a very strong likelihood that you're going to deploy — and pretty early on in your career," he said.
Army officials said the switch did not mean the "Army of One" slogan was a loser, but many have criticized it.
Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute research group, said the previous slogan seemed to promote the notion that you could join the Army and preserve your individuality.
"If you want to be an `Army of One' you probably want to join the Hell's Angels, not the U.S. Army," he said.
The Army adopted the "Army of One" slogan in January 2001 after research showed that young people saw life in the military as dehumanizing. It had replaced the "Be All You Can Be" campaign, which lasted nearly 20 years but which Army officials had soured on at a time of recruiting problems.
"Army Strong" was developed by McCann Worldgroup, the communications firm the Army hired last December after struggling through a disappointing recruiting year. The overall five-year contract with McCann Worldgroup is valued at $1 billion, with the first two years guaranteed at $200 million annually.
The new slogan, developed in numerous tests with focus groups and interviews with soldiers, is meant to convey the idea that if you join the Army you will gain physical and emotional strength, as well as strength of character and purpose.
"What will happen if you come into the Army is what soldiers know happens: you become better," Van Antwerp said in an interview. It also is aimed at selling the merits of Army service to parents, teachers and other "influencers" — adults who directly influence a young person's direction in life, Van Antwerp said.
Harvey said the ad campaign "speaks to the essential truth" of being a soldier.
Eric Keshin, chief operating officer at McCann Worldgroup, said in an interview that "Army Strong" represents "an evolution that is moving with the times" to enable the Army to meet its recruiting goals.
The other military services also rely on slogans to spearhead their advertising campaigns. Just last month the Air Force switched its from "Cross Into the Blue" to "Do Something Amazing." The Navy has relied on "Accelerate Your Life" since January 2001, and the Marines have long used "The Few. The Proud."