Monday, October 9, 2006

Another old soldier has faded away: The U.S. Army announced yesterday that it will replace its old recruiting slogan with one that gets right to the point: “Army Strong.”

Beginning Nov. 9, the service will reach out to young Americans with a multimedia campaign centered on the minimalist phrase.

“It’s a strength like none other,” notes a video, set to music, depicting scenes from the field and patriotic home front.

“It’s the strength to get over — and get over yourself,” the footage advises, depicting a young recruit struggling up a wall.

The motto replaces “An Army of One,” which has been used since early 2001.

“I believe it speaks to an essential truth of being a soldier,” Army Secretary Francis Harvey said at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army yesterday.

” ‘Army Strong’ is a strength personified by every U.S. soldier — active duty, reserve, National Guard, cadet, retired,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, head of Army Accessions Command, which oversees recruitment and training.

The thinking is a far cry from what former Army Secretary Louis Caldera once deemed “me-now” military marketing, with its emphasis on individual ego. According to Army Public Affairs, the new slogan is meant to emphasize “skills, leadership, teamwork and selfless service,” and the “transformative power of the U.S. Army.”

The spartan phrase, however, may take time to resonate with the public.

“I just hope they don’t get too Hollywood on us. The real emphasis should be on honor and duty to country, not some catchy phrase,” said Pete Ries, a Virginia law-enforcement officer and a Vietnam-era Army veteran.

Meanwhile, the Army will roll out the big guns around Veterans Day, when an “Army Strong” advertising blitz commences on TV, radio and the Internet. The service retained New York-based ad agency McCann Worldgroup late last year to rework its image and outreach; the contract is worth $1 billion over the next four years.

The partnership is one of many the Army has maintained in the marketing sector. Advertising Age ranked a former slogan — “Be all that you can be” — No. 2 on its 2001 list of “The Top 10 Jingles of the Century,” behind McDonald’s “You deserve a break today.”

The Army met its fiscal 2006 recruitment challenges despite public-relations rigors posed by the Iraq war. The branch met its goal eight days ahead of schedule, when the 80,000th recruit enlisted Sept. 22. The Army also met its retention goal of 64,200 at the end of August.

Other branches of the armed services also rely on succinct calls to young Americans. The Air Force gets by with “Do something amazing,” the Navy with “Accelerate your life” and the Coast Guard with “Ready today, preparing for tomorrow.” “The few, the proud” has been a long-standing slogan for the Marines — gleaned from “looking for a few good men,” a phrase from a 1799 Marine recruiting notice in a Boston newspaper.

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