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thedrifter
10-04-05, 06:05 PM
Corps mining for recruits, and their parents, with latest ad

By Gordon Lubold
Times staff writer

Diamonds are the Corps' new best friend.

The Corps debuted its latest TV spot - called "Diamond" - Oct. 1, featuring images of young men being "shaped, sharpened and hardened" into members of America's "elite fighting force" using the making of a diamond to illustrate the dramatic transformation from grungy teen to virtuous hero.

The spot, which was to air Oct. 1 on ESPN and later on MTV, CBS and other networks, is the newest in a series of commercials over the years that portray the Corps as what advertisers would call a "premium brand," offering membership to an elite group of warriors.

The 30-second ad makes no reference, veiled or otherwise, to the war in Iraq and is the first commercial produced for the Corps since its recruiting efforts began to stumble in January. Although the Corps has succeeded in shipping more than enough recruits to boot camp each month, it has fallen short in contracting enough individuals to ship later in the year.

The ad attempts to strike a chord with individuals who may want something more out of life, said Jay Cronin, who oversaw the "Diamond" spot for Atlanta-based J. Walter Thompson, the Corps' longtime ad agency.

"In the 30 seconds we have to talk with America, the most compelling [theme] that the kids brought back to us through focus groups is this promise of being something bigger than oneself," he said.

The ad ties in with a revamped Web site, www.marines.com, that Cronin calls "the 31st second" of the ad. The site provides information about the Corps but also talks about core values, discipline and self-mastery.

The spot reflects the new reality of recruiting. For the first time, the focus groups the ad agency used included parents, Cronin said.

Corps officials have stressed in recent years the degree to which parents and other "influencers" are having an effect on whether their children join the military.

Recruiters are having to work extra hard to convince parents that military service would be a good choice for their children - children more inclined to take their cues from their parents than those of previous generations.

Observers of the military's recruiting efforts think the trend toward recruiting parents as much as prospects stems from negative images of the Iraq war that parents see on television. But it's more than that, said William Strauss, co-author of a book about this generation called "Millennials Rising."

The 18- to 20-year-olds the Corps is attempting to recruit are probably the most protected children ever raised. From the moment they were born, they were strapped into car seats and later forced to wear bicycle helmets. Their safety, more so than in any generation before them, was of utmost importance. Now, that hyper-care translates to parents wanting to make sure military service is the right thing for their kids, Strauss said.

The diamond is also an excellent symbol for those parents, who strive to make their children perfect, he said.

"This generation has been raised to be as perfect as its parents and educators and drill instructors can make it," said Strauss, who lives in McLean, Va.

Strauss, whose work has been used extensively by Corps marketers, believes the notion of a diamond helps convey an underlying message to parents as well: Give us your kids and we'll shape them into perfection.

"They want their kids to be perfect," he said. "What's more perfect than a diamond?"

The diamond metaphor - and the message it's trying to convey - is hardly a secretive image in the spot.

Picture the popular Hummer ads in which the camera quickly pulls away from Earth at the end. The Corps' ad - of which there are three versions - works in reverse: The camera zooms toward Earth from outer space and pulls in quickly to a white, Hispanic or black man gazing up at the sky.

Then, in a rapid succession of images, the man is seen in various stages of recruit training - running, jumping and doing pull-ups.

Each image is shown through a diamond-shaped cutout as the man completes his transformation, receives the eagle, globe and anchor, and stands at attention in his dress blues inside a shiny diamond.

Ads over the years rarely show recruit training. One exception was the ad campaign of 1971 called "Rose Garden," in which still images of war, boot camp and Marines around the Corps attempted to show what made the service - the first to use television ads to recruit in the 1970s - different.

In the new ad, a husky-sounding voice-over beckons individuals to join the Corps to become "shaped, sharpened, hardened, ready to stand among the most elite of all warriors: the few, the proud, the Marines."

More than 1,000 active-duty Marines attended casting calls at Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Quantico, Va.; and other bases, Cronin said.

Only three-active duty Marines got the nod. Corps officials declined to name them, citing privacy concerns.

The $2 million ad was shot in Los Angeles earlier this year. It also will appear in movie theaters nationwide.

For the last year or so, some recruiters and Recruiting Command officials have argued for changing the Corps' overall recruiting pitch to reflect the war in Iraq. They believe that pitching a "call to service" in this time of war would be effective. But the Corps has stuck to what has worked over the years, stressing the "intangible" benefits of joining an elite force that's not for everybody.

John Stauber, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal advocacy group based in Madison, Wis., said the fact that war is raging means these kinds of message ads may not work as well as they do at other times, he said.

"There is an unpopular war with no end in sight," he said. "These image ads worked well when that wasn't the case," he said.

Corps TV Classics

"Diamond," the Marine Corps' new recruiting TV spot, continues a tradition of commercials that emphasize personal growth and accomplishment over college cash or other benefits. The Corps, which typically produces one spot every three or four years, uses imagery and metaphors to paint itself as a "premium brand" that isn't for everybody. A look at some of Corps' ads over the years:

"Rose Garden," 1971. Images of Vietnam, boot camp and Marines in dress blues show the Corps as a different breed of service. The ad gave birth to a popular recruiting poster at the time that referenced the Lynn Anderson love song of the same name.

"Sword," 1984. Raw steel is forged into all kinds of things, including swords. So are Marines, according to the metaphor used in this spot that suggests maybe you, too, could become "one of us."

"Knight," 1987. A Marine rides into a King Arthur-like court, conveying adventure, courage and "men who know the meaning of honor."

"Chess," 1991. A chessboard is used to show that men must use more than muscle to compete and win.

"Transformation," 1995. Produced about the time the Corps began offering the grueling "Crucible" event at boot camp, this spot suggests people can reach inside themselves to become more than what they are.

"Rite of Passage," 1998. Similar to the ad that proceeded it, a man goes through a series of obstacles to fight a lava monster. "If you succeed, if you can master your fears, you will be changed forever."

"The Climb," 2001. A man attempts to climb the side of a rock (emphasizing Gen-Xers' penchant for "extreme sports") as images of drill instructors and others are seen mentoring him through the journey.

Ellie

mikecain1
10-28-06, 11:50 PM
That was on my mind constantly During Boot Camp in 1971
I was one of the "Rose Garden " Marines.
I was a Volunteer among some that were Drafted and others that
Wanted to be Marines.
I wanted to be a Marine,Lived it and breathed it.
Semper Fi
:flag: :marine: