Client: Selective Service System (Washington)
PR Team: Widmeyer Communications (Washington)
Campaign: Reaching young men through school
Time Frame: January 2000 - December 2000
Budget: About dollars 350,000
The Selective Service System (SSS) provides a listing of men available
to fight in the event of a draft. Although all 18- to 25-year-olds are
required to sign up, in practice not everyone does, despite the risk of
losing federal education and job-training benefits.
So last year, Widmeyer Communications, which has been agency of record
for SSS since 1998, focused on institutionalizing registration in
secondary schools, before boys reached the required age.
The highest rates of noncompliance are found in border states that have
large numbers of immigrants and minorities, and states in which school
dropout rates are high. Widmeyer conducted focus groups and determined
that ignorance - not resistance - usually accounts for the failure to
The strategy was to reach young males and the people who influence them,
such as guidance counselors and teachers, through partnerships with key
associations and organizations involved with education.
Widmeyer vice president Scott Ward worried that education professionals
and organizations might harbor a post-Vietnam antipathy toward draft
registration, but instead many agreed to help, including the National
Association of Secondary School Principals, the American School
Counselor Association and the Center for Civic Education.
SSS sent a traveling display urging registration to meetings held by
partner groups, and these organizations notified members about the
campaign through their newsletters.
A May 2000 press conference at the National Press Club unveiled a state
report card on registration rates to help increase awareness.
Then-secretary of education Dick Riley urged young men to fulfill their
obligation to ensure they wouldn't cost themselves future educational
Lew Brodsky, director of public and congressional affairs for SSS, says
Widmeyer produced edgier materials than it had in the past to be more
appealing to young males. Registration kits showing a rock climber in
mid-leap were sent to 26,000 high schools and included a poster saying,
"It's not just a leap forward - it's the law."
Television PSAs showed guys in a diner and reminded kids that education
benefits and federal employment are tied to registering. Another PSA
featured a motocross bike in an attempt to catch the attention of young
SFX Motor Sports assisted with the PSA and allowed SSS to promote
registration at their events.
The agency urged educators to make it clear that registering was "just
one of the things a man's gotta do" when presenting the material to high
ABC World News Tonight, CNN Headline News, The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, and Pittsburgh Post Gazette all covered the
A May 22 press conference in Washington, DC revealed that registration
among men turning 20 in 2001 had increased to 87%, up 4% when compared
to men turning 20 in 2000. Texas, California and Washington, DC are
among the areas that still have relatively low rates of compliance.
SSS is working to forge new partnerships with organizations representing