New Army adverts 'promote emotional support' for recruits

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The Army is launching a £1.6m advertising campaign to demonstrate it can “emotionally and physically” support recruits from all backgrounds.

The radio, TV and online adverts seek to address concerns potential soldiers might have about issues, including religion or sexuality.

They ask: “What if I get emotional?”, “Can I be gay in the Army?” and “Do I have to be a superhero?”

The Army last month scrapped plans to ditch its “be the best” slogan.

The new adverts, which are all voiced by serving soldiers, are part of the Army’s “belonging campaign”.

In one, a Muslim soldier explains how the army has allowed him to practice his faith.

Analysis

By Jonathan Beale, BBC defence correspondent

These are not the kind of recruitment adverts most people would probably expect from the Army.

The emphasis is on the emotional rather than the physical, a sense of excitement, and the usual images of military hardware.

Some will see them as a sign the Army has gone soft by focussing on people’s worries. They will question whether it’s another sign of pandering to political correctness.

But like most large organisations, the Army wants to be seen as modern and a reflection of the society it represents.

That means an emphasis on being open to all – regardless of gender, race, religion or class.

It fits in with the head of the Army General Sir Nick Carter’s mantra of “maximising people’s talent” regardless of background.

But he also insists that combat ethos and fighting power remain the Army’s priority. These adverts just might not give that impression.

Colonel Richard Kemp – the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who served in the in the Army until 2006 – said while the adverts were aimed at a number of minority groups, they missed out the Army’s core recruitment pool.

“I think what the army needs to do in order to deal with its recruiting problem is not to specifically appeal to minorities – of course, the more people from all parts of society who join the better.

“But it’s even more important than that to fill the army up with people who want to fight and want to be soldiers. And this, I don’t think, will do that.”

Instead, he called for the Army to focus on retention problems and deal with its “impenetrable” application process and the “horrific bureaucracy” surrounding it.

Major General Timothy Cross, who retired in 2007, said the Army was “really struggling” with recruitment and should not be trying to be “jolly nice to people”.

‘Hollowing out’

The new adverts come against a backdrop of the Army straining to retain and recruit soldiers for a number of years.

A report, compiled by Conservative MP Mark Francois, last year warned the armed forces were “hollowing out” due to recruitment issues, blaming high employment rates and demographic changes within the UK.

He said problems seem “unlikely to abate in the years immediately ahead” and the scale of the challenge must “not be underestimated”.

Between April 2016 and March 2017, 8,194 soldiers joined the British Army.

However, 9,775 left during the same period, with family life and “opportunities outside the forces” among the reasons given.

About 10% of members of the UK regular forces are women, and 7.5% come from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) communities.

‘Be the best’

Last month, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson blocked an attempt to drop its longstanding “be the best” recruitment logo and its crest logo.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the the Army was considering changing the phrase after criticism it was “dated, elitist and non-inclusive”.

Army research also found its crest – depicting crossed swords, a crown and a lion – to be “non-inclusive” and recommended replacing both with a union jack with the word “army” in bold underneath.

However, a spokesman for Mr Williamson said he believed the Army was “the best of the best” and that the rebrand proposals had been put on hold.

Last year, a campaign was used to promote what the Army calls the travel opportunities and friendships within its ranks to boost numbers.

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