J. Walter Thompson and the U.S. Marines introduce "Sword," an instant classic that would be remembered for years (even well after its return trip to the Super Bowl in 1986). The spot originated with a theme first suggested to JWT by Lieutenant Colonel Jack Cirie, a director of military advertising, according to the agency's group account director for the Marines, Sean McNeeley. Cirie saw a parallel between a young person in boot camp and the Hero's Journey identified by Joseph Campbell, McNeeley told Ad Age in 2015, as the agency's relationship with the Marines neared its seventh decade:
He was the one who brought that to the agency and felt that was a worthwhile approach to pick creatively. That really took us down this path of a strategy that became the basis of the next 20 to 25 years of our advertising strategy.
The decision to go to the Super Bowl was just as inspired, recalled Randy Shephard, director of strategy on the account:
The Marine Corps budget was the smallest of the other services, far smaller than the Army’s, whose end of the swimming pool we were comepting in, so our media strategy emphasized memorability. Rather than make sort of average spots and run them frequently our thought was we would make these very different, highly memorable spots and run them less frequently, but in big broad reach properties like the super Bowl. ... We were driven to the Super Bowl counterintuitively as this sounds by budget considerations.
The Marines may have gotten a break in any case, The New York Times reported in 1985:
The Marines say they have negotiated a deal that will cost ''substantially less'' than ABC's asking price of $525,000 for a half-minute spot. But a Marine spokesman, perhaps weary of answering questions about the corps' sensitivity to the current budget crisis, said the exact terms were ''proprietary information.''
Then the agency just needed a focus for the creative, said Pedro Gonzalez, executive art director at JWT and the art director on "Sword" itself:
We were trying to find some symbol or some icon of the Marine Corps. In particular the dress blues uniform is so unique. ... The uniform is alwyas very crisp and just great-looking. One of the things that appealed to us was their sword. It just seemed to be an ideal item to work with. And so it happened very quickly. It was one of those special projects where the idea happened and it changed very little by the time it got produced.
BRAND: U.S. Marines
AGENCY: J. Walter Thompson