New Navy Ad Campaign Kicks Off Targeting Gen Zs on Social Media

October 13, 2022 6:45 PM
Image from the Navy’s new ‘Never’ ad campaign.

Gen Z, the Navy wants you. A new ad campaign, launched on the Navy’s 247th birthday, is using videos posted on social media to target 17 to 24 year olds with a pitch to consider a career in the sea service, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.

The goal of the latest version of its “Forged by the Sea” campaign is to influence members of Gen Z, their parents, teachers and other adults from whom they seek advice, so they consider a career in the Navy, said Ken Woodmansee, a spokesman for the ad agency VMLY&R.

“Today, just 2 percent of the youth market is eligible and motivated to serve, and many of the remaining 98 percent say ‘never’ to a Navy career before ever exploring the possibilities,” according to a statement from VMLY&R.
“This lack of propensity is creating a challenging recruiting environment for all the military branches.”

The campaign specifically focuses on those who are eligible but have dismissed the idea of a career in the Navy, according to the statement from VMLY&R. The videos are not meant for specific types of sailors or officers versus enlisted, said Cmdr. Dave Benham, spokesman for Navy Recruiting Command.

The three videos put out by VMLY&R highlight some of the tasks that sailors do when they join the Navy, from serving on a submarine to tracking storms to flying fighters off of an aircraft carrier. The videos feature current sailors, according to the release. Each talk about how they never thought they would be performing the tasks seen in the video.

“Joining the Navy sounds crazy,” a pilot says in one of the videos. “Saying never actually is.”

The Navy and the other service branches are struggling to recruit due to a small part of the population that is both eligible to join and interested in a military career.

While the Navy met its goal of recruiting 33,400 active-duty enlisted sailors for Fiscal Year 2022, it had to draw heavily on its delayed entry pool, Benham said in an email. The Navy did not meet its goals for the reserve or for active-duty officers, USNI News previously reported.

To meet the projected end strength for FY 2023, the Navy needs to bring on 37,700 active-duty enlisted sailors.

The campaign’s videos are meant to showcase opportunities that the Navy can offer in order to demonstrate ways Gen Zers miss out by not considering the sea service, the statement said.

“Since our founding, the Navy has empowered sailors from all walks of life to exceed what they thought possible in terms of their own personal and professional accomplishments,” Rear Adm. Alexis “Lex” Walker, the commander of Navy Recruiting Command, said in the news release. “We want to share with Gen Z the life-changing opportunities the Navy provides, and to help them understand the vital role the Navy plays in all of our lives, defending against our adversaries and ensuring our global economy travels over free and open seas. These are opportunities to serve a cause greater than any individual, one that requires core values of honor, courage, and commitment.”

The videos will play on social media apps like Instagram, which appeal to the Gen Z population, Woodmansee said. While the video-based TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps among the younger generation, the military is not allowed to advertise on it due to complications with the company’s Chinese ownership.

The Navy also advertises on streaming services like Hulu, Woodmansee said, and the service uses its e-sports team to attract sailors via Twitch. The Navy no longer advertises on regular television.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
Follow @hmongilio

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