A new advertising campaign by the Army will switch away from its “be the best” slogan and instead focus on the emotional support that recruits are offered.
Teaser animations on YouTube, with the strapline “Army belonging 2018”, were shared unofficially yesterday - and “prompted howls of protest from former soldiers, who described the clips as ridiculous political correctness”, says The Times.
“Morale will fall through the floor,” a former officer reportedly told the newspaper. “It is awful.”
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The new radio, TV and online adverts “seek to address concerns potential soldiers might have about religion or sexuality”, says BBC News.
The ads ask: “What if I get emotional?", "Can I be gay in the Army?” and “Do I have to be a superhero?”
Army sources said that the content of the television and online recruitment campaign - which according to The Times, will be launched officially on Saturday - was based on market research. The ads are designed to attract more women and more black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) recruits; two key target audiences for the Army, which is more than 4,000 soldiers short of its goal of an 82,000-strong force.
An insider is quoted by The Times as asking: “How do you expect us to reach our targets for BAMEs and females if we do not do research and work out how to resonate with people?”
The move comes just weeks after Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson reportedly halted plans to scrap the Army’s “be the best” slogan and its historic crest.
The Mail on Sunday said the Army was considering changing the phrase following criticism that it was “dated, elitist and non-inclusive”.
General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the General Staff, argues that the Army needs to appeal to people beyond its traditional cohort of young, white men.
“Our society is changing and I think it is entirely appropriate for us therefore to try and reach out to a much broader base to get the talent we need in order to sustain combat effectiveness,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Carter said that “be the best” remained the Army’s “institutional slogan” but that the current advertising campaign focused on notions of “belonging and team building”.
However, retired colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British operations in Afghanistan, insists the campaign will not solve the recruitment problem.
“The Army, like the rest of government, is being forced down a route of political correctness,” he told BBC Breakfast. “What is most important is that the Army is full of soldiers. It is of secondary importance that they reflect the composition of society.”
Kemp claims that what attracts recruits is images of fighting.
“The main group of people who are interested in joining aren’t worried so much about whether they are going to be listened to… they are going to be attracted by images of combat,” he said.
“Of course, the more people from all parts of society who join the better, but it’s even more important to fill the Army up with people who want to fight and want to be soldiers and this [recruitment campaign] I don’t think will do that.”
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