Canadian military puts focus on purpose and helping others in new recruitment campaign

Who: The Canadian Armed Forces, with Feast for strategy and creative; Suneeva for production (directed by Ante Kovac); Nimiopere and Alter Ego for post-production; BoomBox Sound for audio; and Cossette Media for media.

What: “This Is For You,” a recruitment campaign that emphasizes personal fulfillment, purposeful work and the opportunity to help other people. It is the first new awareness recruitment campaign for the military in three years.

When & Where: The campaign launched late last month with a 90-second anchor spot running in theatres, followed by shorter cut-downs for TV, digital/social running through the end of the year.

Why: The Canadian military is facing a severe shortage of new recruits, and has been for some time. Speaking with media last fall, Brig.-Gen. Krista Brodie said it was getting about half the applicants it needed to reach a goal of 5,900 new members in 2022. “We are without a doubt in an applicant crisis right now,” she said.

In a statement introducing the new campaign, the Department of National Defence said appealing to potential new recruits had become harder “due to increased competition for qualified candidates, misconceptions about the military environment, and changing workplace values. As a result, basic outreach efforts are no longer attracting enough new members.”

“We are currently seeing the impact of the recruitment crisis across all sectors,” said another statement provided to The Message. Because of that, CAF said it is using “new approaches to reaching audiences with more value and interest-based outreach at the forefront.”

How: If past military recruitment ads were about action, bravery and heroic protection of the homeland, this is decidedly not that. The 90-second anchor spot shows not one rifle, and almost no military hardware at all until the last few seconds. Instead, the focus is entirely on how people who want to help other people, or seek meaningful work, should join the Armed Forces.

“The ‘This Is For You’ campaign was developed to counter the traditional military advertisement and show audiences people they can relate to,” said the DND release.

The ad shows seven different scenarios of people taking part in an activity, from mountain biking and off-roading in jeeps and trucks, to playing soccer and fishing. In each case, the action is stopped and the characters demonstrate some innate quality—empathy, problem solving skills and ingenuity—to overcome a challenge.

A narrator explains the thread connecting each of the scenes: “You’ve always wanted to be part of something bigger than yourself,” she says. “You live for experience…. And lead by example. You want the most out of life… and realize what you are looking for is already in you.”

With the last two lines, more than one minute into the spot, uniforms begin to appear on the characters; the camera zooms in to show the fibres becoming almost a part of the individuals. “This is for you, the Canadian Armed Forces,” says the narrator as the spot ends.

The intent was to show the “inner spark” that exists in everyone, said Kovac, who served as both creative director and director on the campaign. “It’s portraying the character-defining moments in everyday situations that make people great candidates for a career in the Canadian Armed Forces… We wanted to show that we all have the potential to make an impact, no matter what form it may take.”

And we quote: “We wanted to highlight the Canadian Armed Forces uniform as a symbol of strength, resilience, passion, and humanity. Conceptually, the growth of the patterns and texture of military fabric alludes to the development of one’s potential to make an impact with the CAF.” — Rob Vena, Feast co-founder and creative director

David Brown