Should Army target 'Generation Love Island' to seek new recruits?

By Mark Andrews | Opinions | Published:

Last year it was 'snowflakes', 'phone zombies', and 'me me me Millennials'. This year it's all about 'generation Love Island'.

Will the latest recruitment drive swell the ranks of the army?

What Windsor Davies would make of the Army's latest recruitment campaign is anybody's guess.

Capita, the private company drafted in by the Army to help with recruitment, has once more adopted a somewhat unconventional approach in its campaign to encourage people to sign up.

The drive, which will feature television and radio adverts, billboard posters ­– and crucially social media advertising – targets followers of fast fashion, social media addicts and gym monkeys, suggesting the Army is the perfect place to build self-confidence.

Fighting for new recruits - The Army is launching a new campaign to swell its ranks

Capita marketing director Nick Terry says the campaign targets people "who didn’t necessarily see the Army as their first port of call”.

The message is that a career in the Army can build lifelong self-confidence in contrast to the short-term boosts that can be found in modern society.

Colonel Nick MacKenzie, head of Army recruiting, says the new campaign aims "to highlight that a career in the Army not only provides exciting opportunities, challenges and adventures but it also gives you a lasting confidence that is hard to find in any other profession."

One of the adverts features a collage of muscular body parts accompanied by the tagline: "Confidence can be built for a summertime or it can last a lifetime."


The Army's new recruitment posters

Another, which features computer 'emojis', says "Confidence can last as long as a like, or it can last a lifetime." A third poster, features a heavily made-up face, with the caption "Confidence can be reapplied every morning, or it can last a lifetime."

Col MacKenzie adds: "This campaign tells a story of character built on camaraderie and encouragement, of unshakeable self-confidence built on overcoming challenges."

The thinking behind the campaign is based on a survey by a 2018 survey by The Prince's Trust, which found that 54 per cent of 16 to 25-year-olds believed a lack of self-confidence held them back.


But if the reaction is anything like last year's 'Your Army Needs You' campaign, which featured various stereotypes of modern youth, then the Army will be in for some fierce criticism.

Last year's recruitment campaign caused controversy

The 2019 recruitment drive saw a series of billboard posters parodying Earl Kitchener's famous 'Your Country Needs You' poster from the First World War, inviting 'Me Me Me Millennials', 'Class Clowns', 'Binge Gamers', 'Phone Zombies', 'Snow Flakes' and 'Selfie Addicts' to sign up.

It said the Army needed their potential and assets, including self-belief, spirit, drive, focus, compassion and confidence. But the drive was met with immediate media ridicule, not helped when the soldier featured in 'Snow Flake' poster said he would be quitting the Army in protest at the use of his photograph.

But while the campaign might have horrified Sgt-Major Williams, the tough talking NCO played by Windsor Davies in 1970s sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum, the Army insist last year's campaign was one of its most successful ever.

It says the posters helped bring recruitment to the highest level in 10 years, with 90,000 people applying to join up. This means the service is 90 per cent of the way to achieving its annual recruitment target with four months to go.

The Army is targeting 'Generation Love Island' with its new campaign

Capita's Nick Terry adds: "The recruitment campaign evolves each year and we are looking to build on the success of last year where applications reached a five-year high and 1.5 million people visited the recruitment website in January alone.

"We had to go with a slightly different message. They needed a bit more persuading and convincing that the army was right for them."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who spend seven years in the Scots Guards, serving in Germany, Cyprus, Belize, and Northern Ireland, says he benefited hugely from the experience.

The 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment based in Wolverhampton

"I know from my own experience the confidence, self-belief and camaraderie a career in the armed forces can offer," he says.

"The latest Army recruitment campaign reflects these unique opportunities and I hope it will build on the success of last year's campaign, which led to a record number of applications in recent years."

The Army certainly needs the recruits. A report in August found that some combat regiments were operating at 40 per cent below their required strength, and infantry units have been consistently falling over the past five years.

But while the Army has suffered the biggest drop in numbers, all three services are all three services are below-strength – the Royal Navy desperately needs to recruit more sailors to serve on the two new aircraft carriers, and its 'Made in the Royal Navy' campaign has tried to target youngsters who feel their lives need a fresh sense of direction.

A full Strategic Defence and Security Review is expected later this year and the Ministry of Defence will be hoping to win more money from the Treasury.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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