Army Web Site Revamp Brings Boot Camp to Techno-Savvy Youth

The U.S. Army's recruiting site,, always featured nuts-and-bolts information on military careers. But what it didn't have was the appeal to youth a Web site targeting teens and early-twentysomethings required. Chemistri, an interactive agency that is a subsidiary of Leo Burnett, was charged with applying sister agency Manning, Selvage & Lee's PR theme, "An Army of One," to the Web site and effectively overhauling the Army's vehicle for its interactive communications. Group Head Kelly Twohig and her team would have to craft a site whose content and tools would build awareness of the Army's recruiting effort, educate prospective enlistees about opportunities in the military and generate recruiting leads. "It really acts as the hub of the marketing communications initiative for our prospects," Twohig says of the site, which went live in January 2001. The Obstacle Course First and foremost, the Web site had to correct misperceptions about the Army. "Most people have an idea of what the Army is about based on movies and TV, and we needed to really give them the reality," says Twohig. "We needed to just provide the information, to get out of the way the major questions that they have: What is the Army and what are the opportunities to serve in the Army?" In addition, the site had to allay people's fears about Basic Training, since misperceptions about this initiation - too hard, too scary - sometimes keep prospective recruits away. The initial challenge was probably the most easily addressed. An "Army 101" tab on the site directs visitors to an extensive and well-organized Q&A section. At the same time, a popular chat function gives young people a way to interact directly with informed recruiters. "Kids coming to the site are interested, and they are looking for something to help them make their decision one way or the other," says Twohig. "The chat site is a safe way for kids to ask their questions and get back honest answers." In addressing fears of Basic Training, Twohig's team also was able to reinforce the larger "Army of One" campaign concept. Drawing on the capabilities of outside firm Digital Ranch, the Web site team arranged for cameras to follow six recruits through basic training. Filmmakers shot thousands of hours of footage during the nine-week course, with cameras rolling practically around the clock. Twohig then brought in an outside video-production firm that pared down the footage as fast as it came in and gave the PR team manageable segments with which to build narratives of the individuals' experiences. The Burnett advertising team supported the Web campaign with teaser TV ads directing young people to the Web site, where the individual narratives unfolded. This reliance on real-life footage is deliberate on the part of the PR team. When speaking to an audience of late-teens and early 20s, "you have to be honest, you have to be realistic," says Twohig. "The thing we hear over and over from the kids is that they have a really good sense of when you are trying to sell too hard. If it is not credible, they will know it, and you will lose them forever." Lessons Learned The PR team recently implemented extensive research on the users coming to the Web site, but Twohig says they probably should have done this a while ago. "We get a new set of 18-year-olds visiting the site all the time," she explains. "As our audience ages and we get new kids in, we see different mindsets and different concerns, and so it would have been ideal to have that research plan in place somewhat sooner." Results The Army has seen increases in its recruiting successes across the board in 2002, including a significant increase in Internet-based recruiting activity. Total Army recruiting leads, for example, were up 56 percent by mid-September 2002 as compared to the same time the previous year, although changes in the global situation like the Sept. 11 attacks could be partially responsible for the surge. Visits to the Web site jumped 47 percent by Fall of 2002 as compared to the year before. Perhaps most telling, the number of Internet-based recruiting leads was up 43 percent compared to the prior year. (Kelly Twohig, 312/220-1618, kelly. Agency Stats Chemistri, part of the B|com3 group of companies Headquarters: Chicago Key Clients: Adidas, Kellogg's, Kraft, Morgan Stanley, Procter & Gamble, the U.S. Army. Billings (2001): For the year ending December 2001, Chemistri reported annual revenue (excluding media billings) in excess of $9 million. Number of Employees: 60+ Timeframe: Chemistri began reworking the Web site in December 2000 and launched the current version in January 2001. Budget: Chemistri will not disclose budget for this campaign. URL:

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