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"Army of One" Campaign Storms the Net

If such movies as Full Metal Jacket instill a real fear of basic training on America's youth, the U.S. Army wants to put an end to that. The Army is addressing this fear by revamping its old "Be All That You Can Be" slogan into a new "Army of One" campaign, which hopes to highlight individuality and alleviate fear of the unknown. What may surprise people, though, is that the Army is currently using the Web and streaming media, as the center of its "Army of One" advertising campaign.

The "Army of One" campaign (www.goarmy.com) was put together by chemistri (www.chemistri.com) the interactive subsidiary of ad-agency Leo Burnett USA — who, in addition to the U.S. Army, boasts such clients as Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Phillip Morris. The campaign utilizes the popular "reality" format, which television viewers just can't seem to get enough of, to track the basic training experience of six new recruits.

According to Chris Miller, co-CEO of chemistri, the recruits were chosen specifically to represent the different segments of the demographic that the Army is targeting for recruitment. Miller also adds that the format of reality-style webcasts was chosen because research indicated that one of the largest barriers to entering the Army is the fear of the unknown and imagined horror of basic training.

Miller states that the campaign is using television solely as a way to drive audiences to the Web. Chemistri has produced several ‘cliff-hanger' style commercials that draw the user to the Web site to see the conclusion. The commercials are running on Fox, MTV, and ESPN2. Once an interested person lands on the Web, though, they are introduced to entirely fresh and unique webisodes.

"We want people to have an accurate look into what it means to be a soldier in today's Army," said Col. Kevin Kelley, director of advertising and public affairs for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. The webisodes are not scripted and Miller adds that, "nobody on this show is making a million dollars."

The goarmy.com site is updated with new content chronicling the recruit's lives each week of the nine-week basic training period. In addition, the site provides information on the 200 jobs that people can choose in the Army, allows interested individuals to chat with recruiters and other prospective soldiers, offers virtual tours of Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and a virtual jukebox of military cadence calls will be added when the recruits learn to march.

According to Miller, the Web proved to be a perfect way to reach the Army's target demographic of 18-to-24 year olds. "They are already downloading MP3's and going to Shockwave," stated Miller, noting that chemistri surely wouldn't use the same web-based strategy if it were attempting to reach the recruit's 55-year old mothers. "In developing something like this you have to know your audience," said Miller.

Another advantage of using the streaming format is that the presentation will live on long after the ad campaign has finished, and serve as an information source for interested recruits. Miller added that Internet access is not proving to be a hurdle for those accessing the site. The Go Army site offers streaming in Real format, as well as a Quicktime progressive download, for those with low-bandwidth connections that are willing to wait for high-quality video.

According to Col. Kevin Kelley, traffic on the goarmy.com site has increased significantly since the ad campaign started. Kelley said that the site was receiving 7,300 visitors/day in the first week of January, but with the launch of the first series of video documenting the recruits' experience, the site's traffic climbed to 30,000 visitors/day in the first week of February.

And while it is still too early to tell if the traffic will turn into recruits, Kelley believes the early indicators show promise.

The Streaming Service Provider

To provide the encoding, hosting and serving, the army and chemistri have teamed up with Digital Outpost (www.digitaloutpost.com). While footage for the "Army of One" campaign is being shot by chemistri, all of the post-production work is being handled by Digital Outpost under the terms of its contract with the government.

According to Rich Darling, vice president of operations at Digital Outpost, the company has won several contracts from the government including a six-year GSA (Government Services Administration) contract and a GPO (Government Printing Office) contract.

To work with the government, Darling states that, "you have to prove that you are competent." Digital Outpost was formed in 1991 by GTE and then purchased in a reverse employee buyout upon GTE's merger with Verizon, according to Darling.

In addition to streaming the goarmy.com content, Digital Outpost provides a lot of "full turnkey" work for the Army. The company is responsible for creating the immersive tour of Fort Knox, and soon will be traveling to Fort Benning to create a 360-degree presentation on life as an infantry man using QTVR and IPIX images.

"We don't have a marketing department. We make money," said Darling. Digital Outpost's client list also includes Warner Brothers, Disney, Sun Microsystems and Nissan.

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