In an unusual move, film shot more than a year ago by a production company working with Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, on the U.S. Army's ad campaign has become the basis of a 26-week "Basic Training" reality series for the History Channel.
When Burnett won the Army account, it hired Digital Ranch, a Los Angeles production company, to follow six recruits through basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., for three months. Digital Ranch tailed each of the recruits and interviewed them every day. The result was 24 TV spots that began in February of last year, and 70 short "Webisodes," where potential Army recruits could see how basic training worked.
Digital Ranch also ended up with 670 hours of film. After negotiating with the Army to get non-exclusive use of the footage, Digital Ranch turned it into a half-hour reality show that begins today.
The History Channel describes the series as being about four men and two women "as they experience success, failure, pain and elation from wake-up call to lights out."
The Army isn't getting paid for the use of the film. While the "Army of One" tag never appears, the Army benefits in getting its message about individual ability showcased in greatly expanded form for 26 weeks. Given that, the Army will not run commercials on the broadcast. Burnett was not directly involved in the series other than to refer Digital Ranch's idea to the Army .
"We hope that people watch it and take home what it means to be a soldier in the Army today," said an Army spokesman. "If the series is as detailed as the ads, it should be very compelling."