The British Army knew its new marketing campaign, which launched in January, would provoke a reaction.

The campaign launched with a series of outdoor posters targeting ‘me me me millennials’, ‘class clowns’, ‘snowflakes’ and ‘phone zombies’. That aspect of the campaign accounted for just 10% of media spend in January but was meant to “provoke a discussion” and get people to take notice of the campaign.

“We were prepared [for the reaction],” explains Nick Terry, marketing director at Capita, the firm responsible for British Army recruitment, adding: “All of that outdoor activity… provoked that discussion and got people to sit up and take notice of the campaign to come – TV, radio, video-on-demand, digital channels, etc – where we are really trying to get these messages to the target audience in a very honest, authentic and engaging way.

“Whatever we do seems to get a reaction because we are going out with some bold, confident messages into the market.”

Having a campaign that gets cut-through is increasingly important for marketers keen to ensure their ads aren’t just wallpaper that consumers can ignore. Working with its creative agency Karmarama, the army has worked on campaigns over the past three years that have shifted the typical armed forces comms strategy from of being focused on “guns and tanks” to one that looks more at the human experience of being in the army.

That started in 2017 with the launch of the ‘This is belonging’ campaign with creative that showed the comradery developed between soldiers. Last year, the creative idea shifted to dispelling some of the stereotypes around being in the army with a focus on women and people of different ethnicities and sexual orientation.

READ MORE: British Army hopes criticism around campaign will help attract more diverse recruits

In 2019, it looked to challenge perceived weaknesses by highlighting how the army could use people with the ‘compassion’ of snowflakes, ‘stamina’ of gamers and ‘confidence’ of selfie addicts. It might have had its detractors and caused some controversy but Terry says it has been successful in leading a reappraisal of what an army career looks like.

Shifting perceptions of an army career

While the British Army has seen a sustained uplift in website visits and applications since the campaign platform launched two years, it has also seen a shift in perceptions. Terry claims that interest in wanting to join the army among its target audience is at its highest point in the last four years; among parents who have sons or daughters looking to join, levels of encouragement are up 60% since 2017.

“When we launched in 2017, what we saw was…