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As U.S. Army recruiting suffers in the face of the grinding war in Iraq, Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is retreating from the tagline it used to win the business in 2000. The Publicis Groupe agency, vying to defend the $200 million account now in a mandatory review, is moving away from the “Army of One” message in pitching the business, said executives with knowledge of the situation, assuring that the controversial line is due to be retired.
A Burnett spokeswoman declined to comment. An Army spokesman said there were “no plans” to change the Army’s slogan.
The line has been criticized since it was first unveiled, as critics argued it undermined the notion of the Army as a team. But denunciations fell flat as the Army met its recruiting goals -- even amid fighting in Afghanistan and the early phase of the war in Iraq. That changed last year as an increasingly bloody guerilla war has raged on. The Army missed its fiscal 2005 recruiting target of 80,000 recruits by nearly 7,000.
As recruiting suffers and the war continues, the slogan has been fodder for late-night talk shows and was ridiculed on a recent episode of the sitcom “Arrested Development.”
Burnett has been evolving the campaign away from reliance on “Army of One” for some time. For example, recent work carries the tagline “Strength for now. Strength for later” with “Army of One” tacked on.
Long-delayed ad review
Burnett had stuck with the “Army of One” line when the business was first put up for review in 2004. That long-delayed review was scuttled in April and resumed during the summer. The review is expected to wind up between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Burnett has a contract extension that runs through March 31.