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Army Guard ad campaign recruits ‘next greatest generation’

By Maj. Rob Perino | National Guard Bureau | Jan. 27, 2021

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Army National Guard has launched a targeted new ad campaign that brings a hopeful message to potential recruits seeking career direction and a meaningful purpose.

Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, Army National Guard director, introduced "The Next Greatest Generation is Now" campaign during a virtual rollout event for recruiting and retention battalions nationwide Jan. 25 at Temple Army National Guard Readiness Center. Jensen associated some of the campaign's action-provoking headlines, "Restless? No. Relentless," and "Live to Make a Difference," with the unyielding dedication and commitment of Citizen-Soldiers in their communities nationwide this past year.

"What I love is that these ads accurately capture our Soldiers," said Jensen. "We've got the right product. Our successes are local, and these efforts can be tailored to the local level."

The far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the educational system, economy and employment were essential considerations when developing messages that connect with contemporary young adults. Yet the advertising team didn't want to create something that could seem time-stamped with 2020 and specific to COVID-19. Many young people wonder if they can succeed and whether there are other people like them in the service, according to a Department of Defense study. The campaign addresses those concerns.

"'Next Greatest Generation is Now' provides a journey and introspective look at what 18- to 24-year-old men and women are facing now," said Lt. Col. Stephen Warren, chief of Army National Guard marketing and advertising. "'Gen Z' is considered 'the disrupted generation' because their schools have been interrupted … their lives have been interrupted."

The new campaign takes the Gen Z perspective and invites them to consider all the opportunities available through part-time Army National Guard service.

"Three different ad executions lay out the challenges this generation is facing," said Warren. "They also feature amazing real-world stories of our current Soldiers in and out of uniform and how they've positively impacted their communities and accelerated their goals."

The rapid-fire ads illustrate activities ranging from Soldiers' civilian pursuits to their military occupations related to the Army National Guard's federal and domestic missions.

"The campaign demonstrates to Gen Z that there are people like them serving in the Army National Guard and finding their part-time service to be satisfying and rewarding," said Warren. "Part-time service can complement your life and help you achieve your long-term goals. The diversity of the Army National Guard extends to our Soldiers' interests, perspectives, goals, backgrounds, and the missions they undertake."

The stars of the heart-pumping, high-definition ads are actual young Army National Guard Soldiers, not actors. Out of hundreds of applicants, these 26 were selected because they exemplify the National Guard's reputation of exceptional readiness, compassionate service and professional competence.

"This is an authentic portrayal of our Soldiers because these are our Soldiers," Jensen said.

The exhaustive casting call was supervised by Army National Guard marketing noncommissioned Staff Sgt. Andy Waiters. The men and women featured hail from 16 states, are 18 to 25 and serve in a range of military occupational specialties.

"The most difficult part was choosing which few would participate out of a stellar pool of hundreds," said Waiters. "The 26 Citizen-Soldiers we selected represent diverse backgrounds and livelihoods whose civilian careers include baker, banker, music teacher and, of course, college students."

Warren described the COVID-related logistical complications the production team endured and the indispensable support provided by the California National Guard.

"For nearly two weeks in December, the California National Guard created a COVID-safe bubble," said Warren. "They ensured CDC guidelines were adhered to and administered COVID tests every three days for hundreds of production crew and on-camera talent that were isolated together. It was impressive to see all the military assets and all the production assets come together to make these products safely and efficiently."

Produced under the umbrella of the Army Enterprise Marketing Office, the ads are a result of a collaboration with advertising agency DDB and the Army National Guard.

"At AEMO, the Army enterprise really is one team," AEMO director Maj. Gen. Alex Fink said during the virtual event. "We achieved a great deal of collaboration with this relationship and, rest assured, all decision authority on Army National Guard materials was approved by the Army National Guard."

"I think the ads are really cool, and I hope you guys enjoy them as well," added Fink.

The energetic and rapidly paced commercials, directed by Academy Award-winner Kathryn Bigelow, simultaneously feature poignant messages of hope and purpose.

"We all joined to make a difference," said Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa, command sergeant major of the Army National Guard. "These ads make me want to reenlist all over again."

The Army National Guard's "Next Greatest Generation is Now" ads debuted across social media, online gaming platforms and online video channels, including CBS, ESPN, FOX Sports and Hulu. Digital media channels include Bleacher Report, Twitch, CNN, FS1, EA, The Players' Tribune and GameSpot. The new campaign will also run during the highly anticipated return of NCAA college basketball and continue into the March Madness tournament.

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