Esports, Comic-Con, and momfluencers: How the US Army is revamping its multi-billion-dollar marketing plan

OmnicomA spec ad from the winning pitch deck plays on a viewer’s emotions and reverence for the military.
  • The US Army has struggled to recruit new soldiers and prove the value of its $US400 million annual advertising budget in recent years.
  • Its new marketing leaders told Business Insider they would shift toward digital, data-driven marketing and away from linear TV to target the elusive Gen Z.
  • The pitch deck that ad holding company giant Omnicom used to win the Army account includes Facebook ads targeting high-schoolers, soldiers’ mums as influencers, and campaigns highlighting potential jobs for Army vets at tech companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • Future recruiting efforts will also focus on events like Comic-Con and Pax, because officials said gamers “make good soldiers.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US Army isn’t just any advertiser.

While membership in the military has dropped significantly since the 1970s, the largest wing of the American armed forces spends around $US400 million dollars annually on marketing to recruit and retain soldiers, according to Department of Defence estimates.

The Army failed to meet its recruitment target in 2018 for the first time in more than a decade and hit more modest goals for 2019 by focusing on student loan debt.

Through interviews with top Army officials and a pitch deck that reveals how holding company giant Omnicom won the Army’s ad business, Business Insider offers an exclusive look inside the military’s plan to reverse those trends by shaking up its marketing strategy.

Most young Americans don’t think the Army is relevant to their lives: The military can’t get Gen Z to enlist. Here’s how top Army marketers plan to fix the problem.

The Army’s new heads of marketing said they planned to move away from big-budget, broad-reach TV ads focused on defending the US in combat and focus on episodic content on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat that courts people by highlighting potential jobs in high-tech fields like drones and cybersecurity.

The Army slashed and restructured its marketing division in an attempt to spend money more effectively: An audit found the US Army wasted $US36 million on marketing in one year. Here’s how its new leaders plan to ensure a return on taxpayers’ money.

After Congress withheld half of its ad budget due to an audit that revealed millions in spending that didn’t deliver results, the Army dissolved its marketing division, relocated to Chicago, and revamped its approaches to data and events. Officials told Business Insider they planned to emphasise conferences like Comic-Con and esports festival Pax, saying gamers and programmers “make good soldiers.”

The winning pitch promised to move millions in spending to the places where young people live: This pitch deck reveals how ad giant Omnicom won the US Army’s $US4 billion marketing business. Its first ads are about to hit digital and social media.

An extensive deck that the world’s second-largest ad holding company used to win the Army account provided more evidence of the military’s plans to reach young people by targeting Facebook ads to high-schoolers, running sponsored content on platforms like Reddit, BuzzFeed, and Twitch, and casting soldiers’ mums as influencers.

It also listed buzzy brands like Tesla and Amazon as partners and suggested that soldiers could get jobs at companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn after they leave the military.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.