Watch the Spot

Defense Department Gears up for Super Bowl Ad Only Military Abroad Will See

Mullen Tackles Unique Assignment to Remind Personnel That They Can Still Vote

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NEW YORK ( -- Some of the most inspiring ad work associated with the Super Bowl will only be seen on foreign shores.

To make sure U.S. servicemen and women are aware of their right to vote in elections, the Department of Defense's Federal Voting Assistance Program is gearing up for a Super Bowl effort of its own -- except its public service announcement won't show up alongside ads from Pepsi, Coca-Cola or Budweiser.

Indeed, the promotion, crafted by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, is aimed at a potential viewing audience that could reach as many as one million viewers via American Forces Network, a TV network that broadcasts popular U.S. TV selections to military personnel stationed abroad and at sea.

When military personnel get up in late at night or early in the morning to see a live broadcast of the Super Bowl, they don't actually see the funny and eye-popping ads that accompany the broadcast on home shores. Instead they see a coterie of public-service announcements and other pieces about recruitment, family services and the like.

They can have high quality, but there aren't quite as many spots as non-military consumers will see stateside. "Some of them are really, really good," said Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program, "and some of them you're on the eighth or ninth time seeing them."

Mullen set out to create a public service spot that could stand alongside traditional commercials, even Super Bowl ads, said Dave Weist, a group creative director at the Boston agency. "They just asked us to think outside the box and really push what people sort of considered the level of creative for a PSA," he said.

Viewers who see the spot will be taken into the inner mechanics of what might seem to be a gun of some sort in the midst of being assembled while a narrator chants the famous "Rifleman's Creed." The mantra starts: "This is my weapon. There are many like it, but this one is mine." As Tim Vaccarino, another Mullen group creative director, put it, "You think you're inside a firearm."

But as viewers quickly discover, the weapon being put together is actually a pen, which can be used to cast a vote. "Your vote is your greatest weapon," viewers are told.

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While American Forces Network viewers won't get to see celebrities drinking soda, movie trailers or the latest gadgets -- all part of the typical Super Bowl experience -- Mr. Carey said he hoped they might appreciate "that experience of having a great ad made for them, targeted at them and making them part of the Super Bowl."

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