Marines debut first TV ad starring a woman amid harassment investigation

Marines debut first TV ad starring a woman amid harassment investigation
Marine Capt. Erin Demchko stars in a new TV ad aimed at recruiting more women into the service. Demchko is deputy commander at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps is rolling out a recruiting commercial starring a female captain in an appeal to women candidates at a time when the military branch is burdened with a sexual harassment scandal.

The "Battle Up" ad starts with a young girl stepping in to stop bullying in a school hallway, who transforms into a young woman scoring on the rugby field, then muscling through an officer training course, then firing a rifle on the battlefield. It ends with the woman extending a helping hand to a homeless man.


It's the first time a woman has been featured so prominently in a recruiting commercial, a Marine Corps spokesman said Friday.

However, the spokesman said the commercial had been months in production and was not a direct response to the Defense Department's announcement earlier this year that it was investigating reports that hundreds of Marines had shared nude photos of female service members on a secret Facebook page.

The ongoing probe has focused on approximately 500 men believed to be active-duty or discharged members of the armed forces. The men allegedly swapped salacious photos of female colleagues, denigrated them with sexually violent language and threatened reprisals against people who exposed their behavior.

"The commercial is an extension of the new brand idea we launched earlier this year, which was years in the making," Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg said in an email to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"'Battle Up' took months to complete and was unrelated to the efforts underway to recommit ourselves to making sure all Marines are treated and valued equally," Kronenberg said.

The uniformed Marine in the ad is Capt. Erin Demchko, a logistics officer from Hackensack, N.J., who is serving as deputy camp commander at Camp Courtney in Okinawa, Japan.

The voiceover message in the commercial is gender neutral: "No one knows where it comes from. Why some have it. And some don't. It's the fighting spirit, and it needs to be fed.

The Marine Corps has proven to be pretty good at promoting its brand. Its 'The few. the proud' and 'A few good men,' commercials are icons of military advertising, Kronenberg said.

As for appealing to women, the Corps' recruiting research shows that it's not as simple as just putting females in commercials.

Female prospects respond more favorably to ads that feature women among men, or only men, over ads that exclusively features females, Kronenberg said.

"When asked, the majority of recruits said that they preferred to think of themselves as a Marine, who happens to be female," he said.

The commercial will debut later this month.

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