ARMY LOOKING FOR A DIRECT HIT

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As the Army struggles to fill boots, the Pentagon is slicing and dicing data from enlistees and the U.S. Census to sharpen direct-marketing efforts for all the armed services.

That means strong below-the-line capability and strategy will be crucial for agencies looking to get a piece of the $200 million U.S. Army account. That contract was to due to be bid this year, but this spring the Army aborted a mandated review due to "inconsistencies in the evaluation process," and instead last week extended Leo Burnett's contract for another six months. A review will be called again, with a Dec. 31 target date for its conclusion, an Army spokesman said.

Said an ad exec who pitched the Army account: "Customer relationship management is the driver ... [it's] the future of all recruitment advertising."

A group within the Department of Defense is already using a software system to separate military recruits and applicants into dozens of segments based on household characteristics, including socioeconomic status. The goal is to identify segments that are more or less likely to join the military and potential new markets. Being able to reach out to 18-year-olds directly is acutely important for the Army, which is in danger of missing its recruiting mission this year as the war in Iraq scares off potential recruits. The Army spokesman said it is seeking 80,000 active duty soldiers, a 30,000 increase in overall strength from previous levels.

The hurdle in direct efforts is divining the right insight into those inclined to enlist "and using that to drive the selection criteria for who you contact," said Tom Collinger, associate professor of integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. That's particularly difficult because many of the targets are teenagers with short paper trails.

TARGETING

"If they were in their mid-20s, you'd have so much more data that you'd be able to apply," he said.

The Defense Department's Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies project's segmentation effort will "help the services generate effective advertising messages and strategies," according to the group's Web site. "This information will help the services reach targeted markets and assist in the development of more effective marketing messages and incentive policies. "

In January 2005, the project started using Claritas' ConsumerPoint software, which uses the Prizm Census-based segmentation system, to sort recruits and applicants from 1999 to 2004. (The effort has nothing to do with the somewhat controversial high-school- and college-student database handled by BeNow, a Defense spokeswoman said, which has drawn fire from privacy advocates.) JAMRS can segment data down to the ZIP-code-plus-four level. The recruits are broken into 66 different subgroups that share characteristics.

For instance, the "down-in-the-city" segment consists of urban black and Hispanic households of low socioeconomic status, who tend to rent and whose parents have elementary and high-school educations. They tend to read Jet and Vibe, watch SoapNet and eat burgers at White Castle, Rally's and Checkers.

The "out-of-downtown" segment consists of white and Asian households of upper economic status that are mostly rural and suburban, tend to own their own homes and whose parents attended or graduated from college. They read Golf Digest and Discover, watch "Movie and a Makeover" and "Movie Break" on TBS and eat at Golden Corral and Chick-Fil-A.

Contributing: Ira Teinowitz

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