Advertiser: U.S. Navy
Agency: Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich.
Ad Review rating: Three stars
First, old business: When last we checked in on the subject of military life advertising, and the Army's ludicrously misleading "An Army of One" slogan, we observed that the realities of the military don't track real well with the expression of individuality.
Among the factors militating against individuality, we mentioned stomaching orders from some non-com with the IQ of moss. This unleashed a torrent of how-dare-you letters, mainly along the lines of how dare we question the intellects of those men and women who bravely serve, blah, blah, blah.
We weren't exactly mystified; we knew the mail was coming. We were, however, puzzled as to how the question of brains reflects on patriotism -- theirs or ours. We respect our men and women in uniform, and we owe them a great debt. By no means do we suggest that all sergeants and chief petty officers are morons, nor even the majority. But let's just say -- demography being what it is -- bellicose nitwits are not underrepresented in the military. We therefore insist that if you join the military to cultivate your ego, you will find it no fun taking orders from some tuber with stripes.
Now then, new business:
The foregoing pouring of gasoline onto the fire dovetails neatly with the new "Accelerate Your Life" campaign from Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., for the U.S. Navy.
Finding your inner you
While it may be ridiculous to advertise military service as a means to express your personal uniqueness, it is perfectly acceptable -- and advantageous -- to advertise joining up to find your inner you.
The Army's landmark "Be All You Can Be" campaign, of course, was all about self-actualization -- converting the rigor of Army life to benefits in character and career. "The Few, the Proud, the Marines" has long invited you, the broad-shouldered but undistinguished recruit, into an elite organization.
It may seem paradoxical to feed egos by forging them into a molten corps, but self-image defined by the group -- "Semper Fi" -- is what the Marines are all about. Jeez, even the classic "Join the Navy, See the World" is about what's in it for you.
Likewise, "Accelerate Your Life," which splits the difference between "Be All You Can Be" and "Join the Navy, See the World," is about ceasing to be a slacker, or a loser in some numbing job, in favor of genuine, heart-pounding adventure. The promise isn't that you'll make yourself into a better person or broaden your vistas via travel to exotic ports of call.
It's about the rush, dude. The adrenaline. The experience. Even the danger. The X-Games, basically, only with heat-seeking missiles instead of skateboards.
Three very similar spots carve that message into discrete slices. All show rapid pulses of sea-training action, images of warships and dinghies, helicopters and Seals, accompanied by hard-driving percussion and punctuated by black screen. "If someone wrote a book about your life," the voiceover asks, "would anyone want to read it?"
And we're, like, ouch. That is sooooo cold ... but compelling -- and, we believe, quite motivating.
So is a second spot, which shows totally cool aircraft-carrier action and familiar on-screen supers. "Latitude: 23 degrees n. Longitude: 177 degrees w." Hmmm, aren't these from old, old Navy recruiting spots? But then comes the payoff: a jumpsuited aviator at attention and the final super, "Life change: 180 degrees."
Because, yeah, that is that kid who used to clerk at the video store, isn't it?
Not a word here is mentioned about service or duty or patriotism or some potential long-term benefit. It's all about the experience right now. Curiously, this is how illicit drugs are positioned. And while we at AdReview aren't Nobel laureates ourselves, we believe -- in this target market -- drugs are doing very, very well.
So by all means, accelerate your life. Just remember this: When, where and how you accelerate it are decisions made by somebody else. Sudden, permanent deceleration, too.
Copyright March 2001, Crain Communications Inc.