Friday, February 20, 2009

The Army Experience Center – "the future of recruiting"

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. -- Edward Bernays

The Army is getting smart these days. Today, the marketing tactics going into recruiting are becoming more and more sophisticated and enticing to our children. Instead of using moldy recruiting stations with dissatisfied, and increasingly suicidal recruiters, who are forced to con young people into signing up for the war of terror, the Army is coming into the modern age by using persuasively savvy marketing strategies straight from the advertising agencies of Madison Avenue.

Today, the marketing sages of Ignited Corporation have created the Army Experience Center -- a 14,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art, $12 million dollar "technology and education center" in a Philadelphia, PA Mall, and, according to the Army "is a model for changing the face of recruiting nationwide."

Ignited explains its mission:

"In a time of unpopular wars, negative press, and falling recruitment rates, the U.S. Army needed a results-oriented way to engage a new generation in a conversation. Now the AEC is where that conversation takes place. With the success of the pilot program look for more AEC in the country in the near future." -- Army Experience Center (AEC) Case Study

Looking at Ignited Corporation's case study video our children will get lured into the mall with the promise of unlimited free video games supplied by the Army and AEC's sponsor Halo, and the promise of a "hyper-realistic, sensory-filled experience on a life-like scale" ride in a Humvee or Blackwalk helicopter while battling the bad guys in "visual mission simulators."

And, while the potential recruits are coming off their adrenaline high of shooting up an Iraqi village, a friendly, shiny-faced soldier in khaki and a polo shirt can guide them over to the interactive, state-of-the-art Career Navigator kiosks so that they can learn all about the 170 fantastic Army career opportunities.

Even though the AEC has soldiers working in the center and career kiosks, strangely enough the Army and the marketing firm can't seem to get their stories straight as to whether or not the AEC is a recruiting station.

In a Army News article by Carrie McLeroy titled "Army Experience Center opens in Philadelphia" Ignited Corporation's Ryan Hansen calls the center "an attraction tool. There is no recruiting mission here. Here it is more about changing perceptions."

He says, "The Soldiers at the AEC don't have quotas. They don't wear traditional Army uniforms, but rather black Army polo shirts and khaki pants. They are from diverse backgrounds and have unique stories to tell. At first glance they seem more like tour guides than Army recruiters, and in a sense, they are. They guide center visitors through their tour of the facility." (And the visitors in Jurassic Park thought it was all going to be fun ride too.)

So, the creators of the AEC claim it is not a recruitment center, however, in their own video case study we hear, "Why do you picture one of their [Army] recruiting offices as an old oak desk with metal filing cabinets? That's exactly the question Ignited asked and answered as we set out to create the Army experience," and this video called Inside the Army Experience Center (youtube video) a soldier says the center is "the future of recruiting."

Why the deception guys? Just tell 'em like it is: the Army Experience Center is an "attraction tool" that is about "changing perceptions" in an "non-threatening" and "transparent" environment by "incorporating technology and those outreach tools" the will "dispel many of the myths that exist about the Army" by allowing visitors to hear soldiers tell their "great Army stories" and have a "better idea of the training and career opportunities afforded our soldiers, and the high-tech nature of our institution."

A recruitment center.

One thing the Army and Ignited forgot is that under the Federal Trade Commission Act advertising "must be truthful and non-deceptive." According to the Federal Trade Commission Act and the FTC's Unfairness Policy Statement, an ad or business practice is unfair if: "it causes or is likely to cause substantial consumer injury which a consumer could not reasonably avoid; and it is not outweighed by the benefit to consumers." The Army needs to reevaluate their advertising and business practices as they are obviously not in compliance. Perhaps if they displayed in these state-of-the-art kiosks pictures of men and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan without legs or faces, suffering from the effects of depleted uranium, or the high incidences of rape against female soldiers, there would be some truth in advertising. Until they do I think the Federal Trade Commission has a case to close them down.

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Also read:
"Kids Learn that Killing is fun," by Penny Coleman (Penny quotes from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman who "cites hundreds of studies that reveal a direct correlation between exposure to media violence -- especially interactive video games -- and increased childhood aggression.")

"Wake Up Call: Activists Visit 'The Army Experience,'"
by Elaine Brower

Inside the Army Experience Center (youtube video)