Its latest attempt to attract young people to a career in the armed forces aims to appeal to them by turning stereotypes about the generation on their head.
Created by Karmarama, the campaign includes executions in the style of the iconic Lord Kitchener poster from World War I directed at groups including "snowflakes", "binge gamers" and "selfie addicts", while TV ads depict how the same personality types could prove beneficial in the Army.
But Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch, commander of the Army Home Command, claims that the posters – using derogatory phrases such as 'snowflake' – were designed to create controversy and have achieved their purpose.
Appearing before the Public Accounts Select Committee on Monday, he said: "The recruitment campaign has got nothing to do with those posters, really. The posters are designed to start a debate."
The senior officer was giving evidence to the committee's inquiry into Capita's contracts with the Ministry of Defence, including army recruitment.
He characterised those he has come across "who don’t like" the posters as either "too old to join the army, have been in the army, are senior people in the army or retired from the army".
Lt Gen Urch reiterated the purpose of the posters. "They were genuinely designed to start a debate – thankfully they did just that. So The posters started the debate; the TV ads, which I think are amazing, are genuinely inspirational and really good."
The ads, launched earlier this month, have been ridiculed on social media, with critics on Twitter pointing out that the campaign made use of stereotypes that may be held by older people, but are probably not recognised by the target audience itself.
Think avocado toast is cool? Try killing Her Majesty's enemies— Dan (@WarioDraghi) January 3, 2019
Not sure why the British Army thinks insulting young people is a good recruitment tactic. What an awful campaign. pic.twitter.com/5DjI4GHVPq— Sarah Hayward (@Sarah_Hayward) January 3, 2019
This new ad campaign from the British Army is not just insulting, its insults are totally misfired. People don’t take selfies because of confidence, but often insecurity. Millennials don’t have an excess of self-belief as anxiety rates show. Phones don’t help focus. Etc etc etc . pic.twitter.com/UVNmaOSCFd— Matt Haig (@matthaig1) January 3, 2019
Disagree with this. For me, the new recruitment campaign is slightly misguided in its attempts to use humour to overcome negative stereotypes. What they'll actually achieve with this is turning off the very people they want to sign up. https://t.co/M7bnybp5Qn— Alex Humphries (@Alex_Humphries) 4 January 2019
Others, meanwhile, objected to the Force carrying out a recruitment campaign, full stop.
What the British Army doesn't understand is that millennial recruitment into the Army isn't low because they're failing to engage with us, it's low because we're not a generation of bootlicking imbeciles https://t.co/jd3tsNBtwY— Kate Flood (@KateFlood) January 3, 2019
The new British Army campaign is horrible. Stop tryna convince the kids to die for you— Shotty Horroh (@ShottyHorroh) January 3, 2019
The response was not universally critical, however: some commentators offered a positive take on the campaign's strategy.
As a young "#Millennial" or "Gen Z" myself, I actually think this campaign by the British Army is very clever. Quite appealing to an extent. If you read what’s being said, it makes sense?? https://t.co/wCaveCqta4— Philip?????????? (@_phil0sophical) January 4, 2019
I think it's more meant to catch potential recruits eye and suggest that they can be army material despite their pre conceived notions of what a soldier is.— Raz_FX/SC2?? (@Raz0r_FX_SC2) January 4, 2019
All in all I think it's a pretty smart campaign. You can make a soldier out of all sorts of people.
And others produced what they considered more apt renditions of the ads.
Really daring this British Army campaign pic.twitter.com/QOSzLxJPOo— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) January 3, 2019
But as Lucy Fisher, defence journalist at The Times, pointed out, the success of a campaign is not necessarily proportionate to its likeability.
Judging by Twitter reaction today, the Army's new ad campaign is highly divisive - but consequently generating a hell of a lot of chat... & surely that's a major metric of success in advertising? More young people will hear about the recruitment drive as a result. https://t.co/Y12mxSYfeH— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) January 3, 2019
And the posters have made a major – and immediate – impact in terms of generating interest in joining the army, according to Lt Gen Urch.
This is worth a read if you still have any doubts; by the way .... the day the posters went live, we saw the largest single day of applications to join the Army for over a year ...... https://t.co/v8WVEX8xQQ— Commander Home Command (@UrchTyrone) January 10, 2019
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