The British Army Tried Seducing Millennials With Backhanded Compliments
The British Army is having trouble maintaining a fresh face. In October, it fell 5,000 short of its promised 82,500 fully trained troops.
Like most brands in need of a lift, it's opted for a fun new campaign, targeted to millennials in the catch-all sense of the term. (For a brief 101 on "How brands talk to people they don't care enough about to actually study or talk to, actually," consider this awkward thing Diet Coke did.)
In truth, the associated hero spot is heavy-handed, but not the worst thing ever. Titled "Your Army Needs You, and Your Resilience" ( ... and a copy editor), it depicts two workers at a supermarket gossiping about a fellow colleague, who's corralling shopping carts with vampiric patience.
"Millennials. Useless," a man with stereotypical store manager vibes says, responding to a woman—confusingly also of millennial age—snorting, "So slow!"
We cut to some adventurous military missioning. A staticky disembodied voice, clearly of the Army world, offers his two cents: "Sounds like a perfectionist to me."
The earnest, scholastic quality of the work can be forgiven; boot camp's not where you learn finesse. But the campaign, by agency Karmarama, has drawn ire—not because of this piece, but for its print iterations.
The latter take the same idea—"No one in this cruel world will ever understand you like the Army!"—and present it out of context … an open invitation to project a context onto it.
New ad campaign from British Army targeting gaming addicts "me me me millennials", "snowflakes" & "selfie addicts" of Gen Z launches this month. pic.twitter.com/P4SjPMVIqy— Lucy Fisher (@LOS_Fisher) January 3, 2019
The Uncle Sam-style pieces depict youthful faces with labels like "ME ME ME MILLENNIALS" and "SELFIE ADDICTS," followed by "Your Army needs you and your confidence," or whatever other positive adjective can be attributed to the original insult.
Here's how it's being read:
“Snowflakes, selfie addicts, class clowns, phone zombies, and me, me, millennials” – sure nothing attracts young people like slurs used against them by older generations https://t.co/UiwNzfxNW5— Elle Hunt (@mlle_elle) January 3, 2019
The campaign's objective was to draw 16- to 25-year-olds, seeking "a bigger sense of purpose," per British Army officer Paul Nanson.
It's almost too easy to imagine how this moved from ideation to execution: How do we grab "millennials," pretty much just a label for "all those lazy kids"? Let's show them we know "phone zombies" just have lots of "focus."
Frankly, it should come as no surprise just how unimpressed the target was by this approach.
playing Red Dead Redemption for ten hours a day >>>>> fighting in literal wars pic.twitter.com/SDLghdvEYA— Chris Godfrey (@ChrisPJGodfrey) January 3, 2019
But this is one of the reasons why it's so important to think from the perspective of shared humanity. The core message here is, "If you don't feel understood, come to us; we see your merits."
That's a perfectly fine message. In fact, it's a lot like what's printed on the Statue of Liberty, the ultimate American symbol of open arms: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…"
You know the rest. Now imagine the radiant face of Liberty, framed with the following super-fun attention-grabber: "HEY, POORS AND LOSERS!"
I mean … come on.