U.S. Army Takes Unique Approach With New Recruitment Video It's the new U.S. Army recruiting video, or is it a trailer for a new Hollywood sci-fi movie? Or is it both? NPR takes a look at the new video.

U.S. Army Takes Unique Approach With New Recruitment Video

U.S. Army Takes Unique Approach With New Recruitment Video

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It's the new U.S. Army recruiting video, or is it a trailer for a new Hollywood sci-fi movie? Or is it both? NPR takes a look at the new video.


Military recruitment ads once sounded like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: There are things to do and places to go, and the Army Air Forces will supply both to healthy, adventurous and patriotic young men with the will to smack the enemy where it hurts the most.

SIEGEL: Long after World War II, U.S. Army commercials still showed classic images of soldiers jumping from planes, wading through swamps and driving tanks.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Be all that you can be.

SIEGEL: But today's Army faces new recruitment challenges. NPR's Neda Ulaby tells us about an ad released this week with a surprisingly different approach.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: It seems so normal at the beginning. A middle-aged man in a plaid shirt and an Army baseball cap tinkers in his home workshop and talks to someone off-camera.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Were you surprised when your daughter enlisted?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Not at all. She's a born leader. I know I've been taking orders from her since she was 5 years old.

ULABY: The camera pans over what's hanging on the wall - family photos, framed medals, a sticker that says support the troops. Then the conversation subtly gets strange.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So you don't worry about her?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Of course I worry about her. I fought in the war of '96. I know what those things are capable of.

ULABY: Wait, things? War of '96? We see on the wall the framed front page of newspaper reading in huge typeface the words victory. Aliens defeated.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: And I know this planet is safer because she's defending it.

ULABY: Turns out, it's an ad for the movie "Independence Day 2," and it's a recruitment video for the Army.

LISA NOCELLA: Fox actually approached us.

ULABY: That's Lisa Nocella. She's an executive at the advertising firm McCann Worldgroup. It contracts with the Army, and her team and the Army produce the ad. It encourages potential recruits to visit a website for the movie's made-up Earth Space Defense Force, where they can enact missions involving cryptology and aerial reconnaissance.

NOCELLA: And it allows us to tell the Army recruitment story in a very new and very relevant way.

ULABY: You might wonder how fighting aliens from outer space counts as relevant. But this ad helps the Army solve its image problem, says Roger Stahl. He studies the military in popular culture.

ROGER STAHL: I think it kind of initiates a new era. I mean, this really has not been tried before.

ULABY: Hollywood and the military have collaborated on films since at least World War II, mostly realistic ones. But Stahl says right now, the Army is trying to shed its low-tech, olive green image. This commercial makes sense, he says, as part of a larger trend.

STAHL: When you look at the past five or six years of military, Hollywood collaborations, they have mostly left the realistic war film genre and gone to sci-fi superhero movies. The biggest collaborations in recent years have been "Transformers," "Iron Man," the new "Superman" movie, "Captain America."

ULABY: So Stahl was hardly surprised to see an Army recruiting video with a science fiction tie-in. William Strickland served in the Air Force for almost 30 years. He ran its recruitment research division and now a company founded to help with Army management and training.

WILLIAM STRICKLAND: I really like that commercial.

ULABY: Strickland says the ad's alien stuff is secondary to its other appeals.

STRICKLAND: Appealing to patriotism, it's appealing to service, it's a higher calling. Those connections are still there whether it's that made-up thing or if it's real. I mean, the U.S. Army's at war and has been now for pretty much going on 17, 18 years.

ULABY: Strickland says this ad speaks to potential recruits and their parents and influencers. It's clear, he says, the Army's trying to reach prospects interested in science fiction and better yet, in science. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

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