WASHINGTON (AP) — The Army is working to quickly pull together some new recruiting ads to air during the NCAA's Final Four basketball games this weekend, after being forced to yank commercials that featured actor Jonathan Majors, in the wake of his arrest last Saturday.
Army leaders had been excited to feature Majors in the ads, as a key part of their new campaign aimed at reviving the service’s struggling recruiting numbers — which fell far short of their enlistment goal last year. They believed the ads would capitalize on Majors' popularity coming off his recently movies “Creed III” and “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” — hoping it would help them reach the youth audience.
Last weekend, however, they pulled the ads off the air when Majors was arrested in New York on charges of strangulation, assault and harassment. New York City police said the actor was involved in a domestic dispute with a 30-year-old woman. But a lawyer for Majors, Priya Chaudhry, has said there is evidence clearing Majors and that the actor “is provably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows.”
Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, head of Army marketing, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that in the past week the Army was able to avoid any loss of of the planned $70 million advertising buy, either by postponing ads or replacing them with other pre-existing commercials that were quickly updated.
The ads were set to appear on television, online on places such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and on digital and physical billboards, including on buses. That ad purchase was the main portion of the campaign, which had a total cost of $117 million.
“We are absolutely able to utilize a majority of what we have invested,” Fink said in an interview. “We think that we’ll have some brand new creative ads in time for the Women’s Final Four on Friday.”
He said that the Army gathered “an enormous amount” of content and footage for the two commercials — titled “Overcoming Obstacles” and “Pushing Tomorrow” — that featured Majors as the narrator.
“A majority of that content did not contain our main narrator. ... So we have a ton of content to go back to, to create basically new commercials new ads, if we need to," Fink said. “The campaign is full steam ahead.”
The Army launched a new ad campaign earlier this month with a big event at the National Press Club as part of the plan to revive the Army’s popular “Be All You Can Be” slogan, which dominated its recruiting ads for two decades starting in 1981. The two new ads highlighted the history of the Army and some of the many professions that recruits can pursue. They ran from March 12 until they were pulled from the air by the Army on the 25th.
Last year was the Army’s worst recruiting year in recent history, falling 25% short of its goal to enlist 60,000 recruits.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday raised the advertising issue and peppered Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Gen. James McConville, the Army's chief of staff, with questions about how the service intends to fix the recruiting problems.
“I see you had a bit of bad luck on your ‘Be All You Can Be’ commercial," said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. “Hopefully you’re cutting a new commercial and getting it online as quickly as possible.”
Wormuth said the Army has a number of new programs, including bonuses, referral initiatives and a future soldier prep course that gives underperforming recruits a chance to take an academic or fitness course to try and meet enlistment standards.
“We’re trying to do everything we can think of because this is really a fundamental thing that the Army has got to solve if we’re going to continue to be the world’s greatest army,” she said.
This story was first published on March 28, 2023. It was published again on March 29, 2023, to correct the wording in a quote by lawyer Priya Chaudhry. Chaudhry said that actor Jonathan Majors “is provably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows,” not that Majors “is probably the victim of an altercation with a woman he knows.”
Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press