U.S. military to reinforce recruiting

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Uncle Sam wants you, enough to level as much as $103 million more against military recruitment advertising this fiscal year.

Seeking to help the military overcome declining recruitment rates caused by the booming U.S. economy, Congress added more money for recruiting and advertising to a defense spending bill. Almost all the military services would fatten their proposed military budgets this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. The bill still needs President Clinton's signature.

It wasn't immediately clear how the new funding would translate into additional media spending. The bill raises the original Pentagon advertising budget of $784 million by 7.3%, but those figures include personnel and other non-media costs. Congressional officials, citing accounting changes, couldn't immediately provide a similar spending figure for last year.

The U.S. Army in a budget drawn up five years ago--well before the recruiting problems were an issue--originally planned to cut ad spending to $36 million this year from $50 million. Since then, it's sought to siphon funding from other programs to restore its previous level of advertising.

Army officials said it wasn't clear yet if the $17 million infusion from Congress would enable it to match last year's levels or raise the ante.


The figures appeared clearer for some other services. The U.S. Army Reserve, which spent $18 million on all recruiting activities last year, would get its projected budget plus an another $21 million this year. A spokesman said much of the additional money would go to ads--primarily TV--though some would go to radio and print.

The Navy, Navy reserve, Marines, Air Force and Navy reserve each received an additional $10 million.

One big beneficiary could be minority agencies and media, whose use the legislation seems to require. Generally, in the past each military service awarded an advertising contract to a lead ad agency, and that agency then selected minority agencies as subcontractors.

The defense spending bill, however, appears to direct the Pentagon to contract directly with minority agencies and media.

"The [House-Senate Conference] committee understands that there are many qualified minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses and small businesses that design and place advertising campaigns," said a conference report approved as part of the spending bill. "The committee believes these firms can provide valuable new insights and expertise . . .[and] expects the department to increase the use of these qualified businesses in the initiation, design and placement of its advertising in the print, radio and electronic media."


Pentagon officials were hopeful the additional money would translate into more advertising.

"We need a funding level that will allow us to have put on a steady campaign and to deal with the media inflation and tough market coming up," said Maj. Ward Wood, chief of advertising and marketing for the Army. "The Olympics and a lot of people are driving up the cost of media."

Maj. Wood said the Army feels it needs to reach 50% of its target 18-to-24-year-old market at least five times a week during a four-week period of the year, and had feared it would not have a consistent program next summer.

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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