Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bad Advertising: Join the Mutant Navy

I originally found this Navy recruitment brochure way back around 1987 while at a Doctor's office. Right away I noticed something unusual about it that set my Cynic-sense tingling. I have retained a precious copy because of the ridiculous and obviously intentional manipulation of the photo of the sailor.

A few years ago when I worked for a security guard company some of my duties (among many) were to write Standard Operating Procedure manuals and train the new hires to be ready to go out into the field and work.

One universal problem that was identified in regards to the security guard work ethic was the failure to follow through in almost any task. I can't tell you how many reports of suspicious persons around cars, reports of unlocked doors or missed trends could be identified as being ignored or not investigated. Now, I'm the type of person who believes that if you agree to do a job you do it to the best of your ability and not slack off because the wage is not what you think it should be. Truthfully, I've seen guards work at a facility where the post pays many times the average rate, comes with benefits, and they still pull the same stunts to get out of actually doing anything resembling work.

As Martin Luther King Jr., said: "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say: 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.' "

Wise words. Do your job, do it well. Hopefully you'll want to improve your lot and work towards promotion or a career that will enable you to reach your personal goals.

One of the lessons I used to teach about following through used the brochure to reinforce that point.

Take a look at the brochure and see if you can spot anything funny about it. I'll wait...

Give up? Okay, take a look at the sailor's hand. What is up with the 10-inch long finger?

Just by looking at the full-size photo one can see what the original intention of the layout of the shoot probably was.

Now, the agency that prepared these recruitment brochures were paid a lot of tax payer money to produce commercials, films, programs, etc., and I demand a quality product for my money. A huge staff of advertising professionals had to work on this flyer. That staff no doubt included specialists in the field who were civilians, from enlisted ranks and officers. If I recall my military administration days correctly, the final product was likely signed off by a committee of higher-ranking officers.

And one, and I mean no one, bothered to say the mutant finger didn't look right.

It is easy to deduce why the change to the digit was made if you think about it.

It appears that in the original shot that the sailor was pointing at the console while doing his duty protecting the world from Evil Forces (this was 1987, remember). But it's seems as if someone along the path of creativity decided that a pointing finger was too simple and was not nearly dramatic enough to entice anyone considering a military career into the Navy. So, in true military tradition, the facts were manipulated.

By extending the sailor's finger several inches he was no longer merely gesturing...he was now doing EXTREME! BUTTON-PRESSING! ACTION!

Yes, pushing the button that saves America from Communism is totally way more exciting and recruitment-worthy than something as mind-numbingly dull as just pointing at it.

Even in 1987 the art department should have done a better job of editing the piece. I think that the brochure going to press as it did says much about the ability of the military to perform a simple task and the contempt that the military had for its target demographic. They displayed no respect for a person's intelligence. I imagine they thought no one would notice or give it a second thought about what it might mean.

Now the point I tried to impress upon the new-hire security guards was how necessary it was to follow through on everything. A key is missing? Don't shrug, tell someone. A car alarm goes off? Check it out. Be motivated enough to start and then actually take the steps required to finish.

Millions of tax dollars were spent in recruitment advertising. The military specializes in truly heroic levels of oversight on every facet of a project and yet they still managed to put out a half-assed product. It's frustrating to realize they produced it that way on purpose. All someone had to do was speak up at the right time.

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