Every Soldier has experienced it at least once in their career: being stopped in the airport, at an event or on the street by someone who wants to say, "Thank you," just for wearing the uniform. Most of us not in uniform have likely witnessed the gesture. That uniform - viewed as a symbol of respect, core values, service and strength in America - is the focal point of the Army's newest advertising campaign.

Launching first in movie theaters and goarmy.com, then on television Memorial Day Weekend, the Army Strong "Symbol of Strength" campaign was created to help prospects see themselves in uniform and imagine who they can become while wearing it.

To ensure prospects can visualize the true strength and experiences they will gain by joining the team, everyone wearing the uniform in the television spots and the online content is an actual Soldier.

"The campaign is very inclusive, very real and very reflective of the Soldiers who have been part of our Army as a nation at war for the past 10 years," said Bruce Jasurda, the Army's chief marketing officer. Every Army division that is or has been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq is depicted on the sleeves of the Soldiers throughout the television spots and digital content.
The campaign, built around the messaging platforms of education, opportunities and leadership, marks a few "firsts" for Army advertising, according to Jasurda.

This is the first time the Army has integrated a national cinema pre-launch advertising campaign in conjunction with a prominent movie release to capitalize on the summer blockbuster movie season. Two weeks before the June 3 premiere of "X-Men: First Class," more than 6,500 screens in 710 theaters began showing a trailer that weaves Army images and messages together with X-Men movie clips, followed by a 30-second Army commercial. An estimated 31 million people will see the theater spots across the country during a five-week period beginning May 20, Jasurda said.

This is also the first time the Army has simultaneously developed the broad-reach/television campaign and the digital components from the onset. The three television spots are designed to drive traffic to goarmy.com, where individuals can further explore and connect with an actual Soldier in a digital environment through interactive walls, Soldier forums and question and answer videos.

"We did that in recognition of the fact that more and more of our target audience receives its information - wants to seek information - from digital and social media sources, so our marketing and communication efforts are reflective of those consumption habits."

In addition, this was the first time Army Reserve Soldiers and unit patches were blended into the advertising content from the campaign's inception, also a calculated effort to be reflective of the Soldiers who are serving on the front lines as a nation at war, Jasurda said.

Empirical research confirms the Army Strong tag line, launched in October 2006, continues to resonate with both the target audience (17- to 24-year-olds) and their influencers, according to Jasurda. In 2008 the added tagline, "Strength Like No Other," built upon that theme of multi-dimensional strength, and for more than a year, Jasurda said, the Army has been working on where to go from there.

The new "Symbol of Strength" sub-campaign was selected from about 30 themes developed by the advertising agency, which the Army then narrowed down to three and rigorously tested through focus groups to ensure they reach the desired communication objectives.

"We looked for ways to freshen and revitalize the prospects' perception of what [Army Strong] really means to them personally," Jasurda said. "This uniform means different things to different people but, most importantly, when you put this on - it's the jersey of the best team in the world - you become part of that team."

To view the commericals, visit the goarmy.com YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/goarmyvideos.