MoD ads 'glamorise' army jobs

The Ministry of Defence uses misleading marketing to attract youngsters into its frontline ranks by glamorising the “action man and woman” aspects of forces life.

In their analysis of the department’s adverts and promotions, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust found that the real “risks and responsibilities” of army jobs were skirted over.

The MoD’s marketing on a range of mediums, some of which target seven-year-olds, was found to “glamorise warfare” and “omit vital information” about army careers.

Evidencing their claims, the charity pointed out MoD material fails to mention that unless recruits leave within six months of enlisting, minors have no legal right to leave for four years.

By not giving the total picture of careers in the forces, the charity believes it has uncovered why around half of all soldiers in 2007 said army life was worse than they had expected.

Moreover, the use of dodgy adverts is costing taxpayers: the MoD invests over £2billion on training every year - but the bulk of this trains 20,000 recruits, who replace soldiers who quit.

David Gee, author of the report, said to be the first ever probe into MoD recruitment techniques, is calling for changes to be made in how the armed forces staffs its ranks.

“A career in the armed forces can provide young people with opportunities. But there are risks and legal obligations that don’t exist in civilian life,” he said in the report, Informed Choice? Armed Forces and Recruitment Practices in the UK.

“It is therefore vital that potential recruits fully understand what they are getting into and can make an informed choice about whether to enlist. The action man and woman picture does not tell the whole story.

Gee, who is a security analyst, said a more honest approach to recruitment would ensure that “those who join do so for the right reasons”. He believes it would also serve to cut the “huge resources” spent on replacing personnel.

But one military expert has raised doubts about the tone of the report, its authors and the judgements they make about poor retention in the army being intrinsic to underhand recruitment tactics.

Writing in the Times, Lawrence James, author of Warrior Race, blasted: “The truth is that the wastage rate of new recruits is the same as it was a century ago.”

He added: “The Joseph Rowntree Trust has issued a prissy whinge against the Army’s recruitment campaign, claiming it glamorises warfare. The trust’s report is as predictable as it is misjudged.

“An understanding of the values of the military world are absent, just as we would expect from a Quaker institution. One might as well ask a vegan to review the charcuteries of Paris.”

Nevertheless, the doubts over the ethics of MoD marketing campaigns, which cover internet, TV and computer games, come as one advertising house prepares to spotlight socially responsible marketing.

Disclosures obtained by the Independent reveal Viacom Brand Solutions will soon announce financing for 10 new advertisers whose campaigns are for what it calls “pro-social products.”

Nick Bampton, managing director, told the paper: “VBS will offer 50 per cent funding to products offering alternatives to the mainstream – such as healthy children’s food, hybrid cars, energy efficient products and recycled products.”

Other examples of socially responsible advertising campaigns include MCBD’s ‘Stop the Guns’ campaign, made for Scotland Yard, which helped reduce gun crime by 15 per cent.

Such examples of marketing are widely considered as the best way for advertisers to lose their age-old notoriety of only promoting society’s woes, like binge drinking, smoking, the obesity crisis and global warming.


8th January 2008

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