The Army is planning to launch a new reality TV program, "Starting Strong," on June 2, aimed at recruiting 18- to 24-year-olds to enlist in the military.
The Army describes it as a "reality-TV inspired" advertisement, but it will look an awful lot like a standard TV show. There will be 10 episodes. Each is roughly 23 minutes long and is broken up by regular commercial breaks, and they're coming to your local TV station. A Facebook page for the series offers some teaser promotional photos.
"While we obviously can't and wouldn't produce entertainment content, this is a branded content series -- a long-form commercial, if you will," Ali Bettencourt, an Army spokeswoman, told CNNMoney.
As described in Recruiter Journal, an internal Army recruiting magazine: "'Starting Strong' gives civilians interested in becoming a soldier a chance to live and breathe a military occupational specialty for a week with an Army mentor and actual soldiers to determine if Army life is for them. At the end of each reality-TV inspired episode, the prospect is asked if he or she wants to join the Army."
Bettencourt said the Army, which paid for the series' production, is turning to this new recruiting strategy because studies show that young people are avoiding standard advertising channels.
"The demographic of 18- to 24-year-olds are rapidly not engaging with traditional commercials," she said. "They're either able to skip them completely on TV, or with online content, are able to click past it 70% of the time."
The Army already has its own computer game, America's Army, also intended as a recruiting tool.
The Army has hit or surpassed its recruiting targets every year since 2005, when it fell short by 7,000 people. Recruits these days tend to be "higher quality" by the Pentagon's own definition, including more high school graduates and candidates who score higher on the military entrance exams.
All branches of the military have recently seen a reduction in their recruitment funding, including their advertising budgets, a Pentagon spokesman said.
According to the Army, "Starting Strong" is scheduled to air on Sunday mornings on Fox affiliates in 16 markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Phoenix, between June 2 and August 4. The videos will also be posted on the Army's YouTube channel.
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