As the recession continues to bite the armed forces are experiencing an increase in the number of new recruits – which has risen 10% on last year. This surge of interest is seems not only to be a product of the recession but the Forces increasingly extensive and sophisticated self-promotion.
In addition to the web and TV based ‘Start Thinking Soldier’ campaign are a whole host of offline, regional events. Potential young recruits are being targeted at consumer events, shopping malls and schools using experiential events and arcade-style virtual reality simulators. Even in my local shopping arcade is a shop dedicated to promoting the exciting adventures a soldier will embark on with the added excitement of virtual reality gaming and cool buggies to drive.
The RAF have also launched RAF Altitude – an online magazine portal for young teenagers to sign up and learn about RAF career options. The interface includes areas to register and ‘Dive In’ to learn about RAF survival techniques, RAF history and a Youtube channel dedicated to promoting the cool life of an air force cadet.
To sew the seeds of military ambition at an even earlier age are Hasbro’s ultra realistic Action Man dolls (seen here in the window of Hamleys in April 2009). Hasbro recently reintroduced the dolls with special permission from the MoD. The figures will now come equipped with accurate replicas of the weapons used in the Iran and Afghanistan wars as opposed to the more fanciful inline skates, water pistols and snowboards.
According to BBC News:
‘The MoD says it hopes the figures will boost the profile of Britain’s serving forces. [It’s] an ideal opportunity to raise public awareness of the armed forces and what the personnel do day-by-day,” says Squadron leader Stuart Balfour. “We feel by children playing with these toys, it promotes things like discipline, sense of belonging to a wider organisation and team work.’