The U.S. Army has disabled comments on its YouTube page for a series of so-called “woke” recruiting advertisements that were getting far more negative responses than positive ones.
The ads are part of a new marketing initiative launched in recent weeks by the Army in a bid to attract 18-24 Millennials and convince them to give military service a try, Just The News reported Wednesday, noting that the service branch got a positive response to the ads from a number of focus groups.
The campaign, which has been dubbed “The Calling,” consists of several ads and combines live-action video with animation to highlight the stories of actual individual soldiers. But though the Army says focus groups who saw the ads gave them a thumbs-up, they have been ripped as being “woke” and too focused on sensibilities rather than the physical nature and skills of being in the military and its ultimate purpose for existing — to kill America’s enemies when called to do so.
“‘The Calling’ contains five segments featuring real soldiers who talk about why they joined the Army,” Just The News reported. “Against a backdrop of dramatic music, the demographically diverse soldiers explain the challenges and hardships they faced while growing up and how they came to see the Army as a positive career choice.”
Perhaps the most-talked-about segment involves “Emma,” a soldier who was raised by two lesbian mothers and who bragged about taking part in marches for equality. Other segments include “David,” who says he did not think he was smart enough to become a helicopter pilot; “Jennifer,” who said her traumatic upbringing served as her inspiration to help others; and two more soldiers who also said they overcame challenges before enlisting.
Critics say the segments do not project strength at all but rather appear to focus more on human frailties, leading Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to slam the series as portraying a “woke, emasculated” Army. Cruz went on to compare the Army’s recruiting ads to those of Russia and China, where members of the military are depicted as hard-charging warriors utilizing state-of-the-art gear.
Others agreed with Cruz, including John Wagner, a former Army public affairs officer.
“What audience did this attempt to reach?” he told Just The News. “Just to show how ‘woke’ the Army is?
“This material is aimed not at recruiting, as it should have been, but at trying to show something that is not a core principle of defending our nation. Who’s going to rethink joining after this?” he added.
Russia and China fill most of their ranks by conscripting young men and women — the U.S. ended mandatory military service for most Americans in 1973 — and their militaries have their own unique problems, defense analysts say.
Still, it’s not clear whether the “The Calling” ad series is going to produce soldiers for the Army, let alone warriors, especially among the targeted “Generation Z” demographic of 18-24-year-olds.
“We tested the ads with the Gen Z market,” Army marketing official Laura DeFrancisco told the outlet. “We’re trying to get them with the soldiers’ backstories.
“This was to show that these soldiers are relatable. What was their backstory? We went for the authenticity. Who are you? We used the storytelling approach,” she said, adding that the Army shut off comments to the ads because officials “don’t know from the comments if those are coming from people in our target audience, or elsewhere.”
Not all of the Army’s ad campaigns have fizzled. One long-running campaign that has been measurably successful is called “What’s Your Warrior,” a TV-based series focused more on a traditional appeal to military service.
“The muscular ads feature athletic fighters using sniper rifles, artillery, knives, drones, and medical gear, among other things,” Just The News reported.
The campaign “showcases the breadth and depth of opportunities and inspires a new generation of youth to discover their inner warriors and serve as part of America’s greatest team,” the Army says.
Some early signs indicate that “The Calling” isn’t going to rise to the same level of success as “What’s Your Warrior.”
“No one has walked into my shop and said, ‘I’m here because I saw those ads,'” one Tampa-based recruiter told Just The News on condition of anonymity.
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