Here’s to clients with guts (and guns)

25 Sep

[by Todd] 3 a.m., Times Square — Never in my wildest professional daydreams would I have pictured this. (And believe me, I can conjure up some amazing daydreams.) Here I am in the middle of Times Square with a platoon of Marines, producing a new commercial and web site.

3am Being part of the television production is cool. But that’s hardly the thrill. No, I am standing here in awe of my clients’ desire to approach marketing in an innovative way that would paralyze most marketing execs.

That’s right, I am holding up the United States Marine Corps as a gold-star example of how to market in the 21st century. And if any CMO ever tells you that their company is too conservative to embrace a new way of thinking, point them towards The Few, The Proud.

Let’s start with some basics. I work for RMG Connect, which is affiliated with JWT. The United States Marine Corps has been a client of JWT for 60+ years, and that’s even though government regulations require that the work goes up for review every four years. RMG Connect handles the direct marketing online and off.

There are a dozen major agencies I know of that split work along these "above and below the lines" tasks. Precious few have figured out why that division should remain on paper only.

Now, consider this marketing challenge.

  • Your target is the ever elusive 17- to 24-year-old.
  • Your competition is touting money for college and skills. You? Your offer is 13-weeks of unmitigated pain as a path to the promise "first to fight."
  • Propensity to enlist is at an all-time low, and the political arena is stacked against you, to put it mildly.

And then there’s one more challenge that should send shudders down the spines of anyone who’s worked at an agency. Your clients are trained warriors. They are just as likely to be assigned commanding troops in battle, as they are approving creative briefs or wading through segmentation data.

If you ever get such an opportunity, jump, in, as fast as you can.

When it came time to plan a new recruiting campaign there was never a question of whether or not the concepts should have full interactive extensions. The only question was how far out front of the television commercial should the campaign debut online.

And the online elements aren’t retooled versions of the TV commercial. Instead the client, expected, and got plans for a web site that stood on its own strategic merits.

While the television crew is following the Silent Drill Platoon across the country, the interactive team is right there, with its own documentary crew. We’re talking to Marines, former Marines and average folks about the role of the Corps in today’s world.

Interview This is a bold new world for a 231-year-old institution that has held forth that consumers have to earn their way in. Messages were delivered in blunt, typically somber tones. Using the words of others, far outside the chain of command was unheard of. Until now.

Maybe its the Marines ingrained philosophy of adapt, improvise and overcome. Or maybe it is the fact that the command staff in charge of recruiting and advertising aren’t burdened with 20 years of building a marketing career by making decisions that won’t get you fired.

This morning, under the surreal glow of advertising’s mecca, we are filming Marines spinning 10.5 pound rifles. But we’re also interviewing a 68-year-old veteran who, though blind, made sure he didn’t miss a moment.

We’re talking to mothers who have watched their children (boys and girls) grow into Marines, and along the way take their families into lifestyle they never could have imagined, and now would never live without.

And when they’re done talking to us, it will all be online for the world to read, copy, and use however it likes. Because the Marines understand that marketing is about a lot more than selling product, or enlistment. It means contributing to the public discourse and respecting the places where your prospects reside.


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