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[] Army Will Blend Real Life With TV,

Wall Street Journal
March 25, 2004
Pg. B7

Army Will Blend Real Life With TV

Program to Splice Material From Present-Day Soldiers And 'Band of

By Brian Steinberg, Staff Reporter Of The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Army is launching an innovative new advertising vehicle that
will make its debut next week, but it beat a hasty retreat on one front.

The Army and its marketing team had commissioned a 22-minute show to air
on the History Channel that would "preview" the channel's coming
reairing of the popular World War II miniseries "Band of Brothers,"
which ran on HBO in 2001. The Army show blends scenes from the
miniseries with uplifting interviews with soldiers who have served in
Iraq or Afghanistan. The show is part of a trend among advertisers to
devise "situational" ads that play off specific programs and are harder
for consumers to dismiss as ho-hum advertising.

Shorter installments of the preview, lasting one to several minutes,
will appear during other History Channel programming in commercial
breaks or to fill gaps between programs. As part of the package, the
same soldiers in the preview will offer commentary before and after
individual "Band of Brothers" episodes.

The preview doesn't look like a commercial -- it doesn't carry Army
slogans or recruitment-center phone numbers. It is a production of the
History Channel, part of the A&E Television Networks owned by Hearst,
General Electric's NBC and Walt Disney's ABC. But it was crafted with
assistance from Starcom Entertainment, part of Publicis Groupe's Starcom
USA. Starcom Entertainment, an entertainment marketing firm, counts the
Army among its clients.

Originally, the Army sponsorship wasn't going to be flagged, but in
response to inquiries from The Wall Street Journal yesterday, the Army
said it would make its participation plainer by listing the Army
association in the credits before and after the show, according to Paul
Boyce, an Army public-affairs specialist.

The movement by marketers to tailor their ad messages to specific TV
programming has been growing, spurred by a desire to capture viewers who
might otherwise look elsewhere. "We're going to see a lot of advertisers
get closer to content," says Laura Caraccioli-Davis, a Starcom
Entertainment senior vice president.

Still, those efforts were more readily identifiable as commercials.
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone
Group, launched a TV spot crafted by Interpublic Group's McCann-Erickson
featuring Donald Trump that emulates a scenario from "The Apprentice,"
the NBC reality program.

Marketing consultants know why advertisers embrace this method. "You're
trying to dial up the intensity of your message," says Tom Agan of
marketing-strategy firm Prophet. Longer messages in settings that aren't
so oriented toward the hard sell can prove attractive to consumers, he

Originally, the Army believed viewers would understand that its
soldiers' participation implied a sponsorship. After all, Mr. Boyce
says, the soldiers have Army tags prominently displayed. The Army helped
promote "Band of Brothers" when it made its debut on HBO, he adds. But
the Army is a special institution, and its advertising involvement might
not be as implicit as it would be if a laundry detergent or a can of
soda were the sponsor.

Mr. Boyce wouldn't say how much the Army paid for the 22-minute program
and flanking ads, but the price tag is believed to be between $800,000
and $1 million. Mr. Boyce says the Army's current annual budget for
marketing communications is $180 million. Traditional Army TV
commercials are expected to air with "Band of Brothers," as well as
during the 22-minute program.

In one segment of the program, a modern soldier says, "Once you put on
this uniform, you feel like you are doing something that a lot of people
can't do." The program then shifts to a "Band of Brothers" scene where
one soldier asks another why he wanted to join the paratroopers. Mr.
Boyce says the effort is aimed at an older demographic that might
influence younger people when they choose careers.

The ad industry is sure to watch because the Army's contract with Leo
Burnett, Starcom's sister, ends in June. Mr. Boyce says the Army is
likely to extend the pact, which includes Starcom, until late September.

Marketers must depend upon audiences' sophistication when trying these
techniques. "We want to be very careful not to cross the line of fooling
anyone," says Frances Page of Interpublic's Magna Global Entertainment,
which creates advertiser-supplied programming.

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