With their Army counterparts struggling mightily to meet recruiting targets, the Navy thinks it may have hit on a powerful pitch to help fill its own ranks: A new multimillion-dollar television,
radio and online ad campaign presents the service as a humanitarian rather than a combat organization, with spots emphasizing its ability to deliver relief supplies.
TV ads include
footage of Navy helicopters dropping aid to survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and picking up residents from rooftops after Hurricane Katrina. "Young people today are interested in being able
to do something with a broad-based impact," says Kathleen Donald, an executive at Campbell-Ewald, who helped develop the Navy campaign.
Because joining the military intrinsically alters the course of a person's life, it is harder to run a successful recruiting ad than to sell laundry detergent or soft drinks -- a challenge particularly acute in wartime. But the new ads are "absolutely in the center of the bull's-eye," claims John Allen Williams, a political scientist at Loyola University, Chicago.