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Mideast Crisis Has Some Military Ad Planners Revising Their Strategies

U.S. Armed Forces officials were not amused when they recently heard the joke that their ad slogan, “Opportunity is Waiting for You,” was being updated to a more timely “Opportunity is Kuwaiting for You.”

In light of the Persian Gulf crisis, however, the U.S. Armed Forces did react relatively quickly this month and revamp its slogan to read: “Stand up, stand out.”

“When there’s the possibility of a shooting war,” said Robert Ravitz, executive vice president at Grey Advertising in New York, which creates Armed Forces ads, “you don’t want to mislead someone into thinking that if they join, they still get to travel and see the world.”

But that kind of thinking is hardly unanimous among the various branches of the military, which together spent more than $65 million on advertising last year. Officials for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines generally say they have no plans--at least right now--to change their individual advertising strategies. Most of the current campaigns talk about the character-building and job-training benefits of each military branch.

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“Everyone is certainly aware of what is going on in the Middle East,” said John Glorieux, general manager of the New York agency Young & Rubicam, which creates ads for the Army. “They don’t need advertising to remind them.”

With the United Nations’ Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to remove all of its troops from Kuwait approaching, tensions in the Middle East continue to escalate. That has put pressure on the various branches of the Armed Forces to attract new recruits at a time when the numbers of those signing up are generally dwindling.

The problem confounding them all: how to patriotically convince potential recruits that war isn’t really hell. Well, even Madison Avenue probably can’t accomplish that. So, most branches of the Armed Forces say they won’t even try. Instead, they will continue to market themselves as a gold mine of job training and college funds.

But by doing that, several advertising and marketing experts say, the individual branches of the military are probably conveying the wrong messages and perhaps even misleading potential recruits.

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“If they want to boost enrollment, advertising things like the opportunity to see the world is not the way to get it,” said Bernd Schmitt, a consumer behavior specialist at Columbia University in New York. “The part of the world you’d want to see is probably not where you’d be sent right now.”

With the current Middle East tensions, “my gut tells me that recruits won’t buy in as quickly to those career-in-a-can claims,” said Brent Bouchez, creative director at the Los Angeles office of Ketchum Advertising. “If they want people to sign up, they’ll have to change the way they talk.”

Right now, the Persian Gulf has such “top of the mind awareness,” said Joel Stekel, a marketing professor at New York University, that “you can’t really avoid it in recruitment advertising.” What’s more, he said, ads that right now try to appeal to recruits who want to “camp, fly and swim” are probably downright silly.

“We’re trying to be sensitive to what’s going on in the world,” said Grey’s Ravitz, whose Armed Forces ads appeared in recent issues of People, Parade and TV Guide. “It didn’t seem appropriate to talk about other benefits in the equation when, in all practicalities, you could end up in a bunker in the Persian Gulf.”

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Besides replacing its old slogan, the visuals in its new ads have also been drastically changed from pictures of soldiers in action to more patriotic illustrations of the American eagle. The new ads say, “Protecting freedom takes hard work. Dedication. And sometimes sacrifice.”

The point of military advertising is to attract recruits. Although the number of Navy recruits fell in October and November, the jingle, “You and the Navy . . . full speed ahead,” won’t be changed, said Cmdr. Mel Sudin, public affairs officer at the Navy Recruiting Command in Washington. “We’re not at a point yet where we have to consider any drastic changes,” he said.

Nor will the message “The few. The proud. The Marines,” be changed, said Maj. Robert Wilson, head of marketing for the U.S. Marine Corps. “Even if war breaks out, we won’t change,” Wilson said. “We’ve always sold ourselves as being the first to fight.”

But if war breaks out, the U.S. Army would reduce its advertising significantly, said Col. John Myers, director of advertising for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Ft. Sheridan, Ill. “It would be insensitive to run an Army message about college funding that could be juxtaposed next to news footage of combat casualties.”

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No Reaction to Luxury Ads in Homeless Story

Sometimes ads can pop up in the most awkward places.

Take the Dec. 17 issue of Time magazine, which had a five-page spread on the plight of the homeless. Among other things, the story was accompanied by a half-page photo of a homeless person living in a cardboard box. But weaved between the pages of the article, in about one-fourth of the magazine’s 4 million issues, were full-page ads for some of America’s priciest products.

One ad was for a Parker pen that sells for $300. Another was for Jaguar cars--"Classic luxury that makes time stand still.” Yet another, with French skier Jean Claude Killy, was for Rolex watches. “In life as in skiing,” the ad says, “timing is everything.”

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And what about “timing” in advertising? Well, a Time spokesman said the magazine received no complaints about the juxtaposition of the ads and the editorial. “We don’t feel it’s a problem,” said spokesman Robert Pondiscio. “It’s wrong to assume people who buy expensive things don’t care about homelessness.”

L.A. Hires 4 Firms to Plan Recycling Ad Blitz

Get ready for an onslaught of recycling ads and promotions in Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to spend $3.2 million on an advertising and public relations campaign to get the word out about the city’s new recycling program. The funds will be spread among four ad and PR firms--with about half of the money going to Westwood-based Laufer Associates, which specializes in social and environmental issues.

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The Los Angeles office of Foot, Cone & Belding will be responsible for the mainstream advertising and direct-mail part of the campaign. Coronado Communications will oversee promotions in the Latino and Asian communities, and Lois Hill Hale & Associates will handle outreach to the city’s African-American community.

The goal of the recycling program: Reduce non-recycled trash by 50% by the year 2000.

Milli Vanilli Almost Perfect for Dreyer’s Ad

Just how silly is Milli Vanilli?

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Several weeks ago, an agent representing Milli Vanilli telephoned the folks at Oakland-based Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream about appearing in an ad. The group Milli Vanilli was recently stripped of its 1989 Grammy for best new artist when it was revealed that the duo didn’t sing on their best-selling album.

For the past two years, Dreyer’s has been running an ad campaign featuring “unbelievable spokesmen.” Past ads featured such “unbelievables” as former White House Chief of Staff and convicted felon John Erlichman, and Melvin Dumar, the man who claimed that Howard Hughes included him in his will.

So, what about Milli Vanilli? “It would have been a perfect fit,” said Dreyer’s spokeswoman Jennifer Howard. Alas, the ice cream maker recently dumped that campaign when it hired a new agency. Too bad. Milli Vanilli would have been a dilly.

Little S.F. Newspaper on a Meatless Diet

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It has become common for certain publications to turn down ads for cigarettes and alcohol. But a tiny San Francisco newspaper--which has relied heavily upon local grocery store ads--has decided to reject all ads for meat, poultry and fish products.

Behind this is the publisher of the New Fillmore, a monthly neighborhood paper in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights district, who says he has become a “radicalized” vegetarian.

“The realities about the damage an animal-based diet wreaks upon our health and the environment have become too overwhelming for me to ignore,” said David Ish, publisher of the paper, which has a circulation of 17,500. As a result of this policy, two of the paper’s largest advertisers--local grocery stores--have cut way back on their ads.

Ish said the paper will continue to accept ads for “meatless meats"--made of soy products.

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