11 June 2013

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's a National Guard Advert!

Faster than you can say "borrowed interest"! Slightly more resonant than that old "Army of One" recruiting slogan! Possibly able to leap the chasm of American indifference toward joining the U.S. Armed Forces!

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the National Guard's "Soldier of Steel" advertising campaign, which is linked to the upcoming Superman film "Man of Steel." Coming soon to theaters near you June 14, 2013!

In a time of diminishing budgets and decreasing troop levels, the U.S. Armed Forces have noticeably cut NASCAR sponsorships and other high-profile branding efforts. But, with Superman on our side, what could possibly go wrong? Particularly when we reach out to our country's 17-to-34-year-olds demographic. Because Superman is cool! Right, kids?

Directed by Zack Snyder, "Man of Steel" looks to be a potential improvement to the Superman story, particularly when compared to the lackluster "Superman Returns" (2006). Snyder has previously helmed other comic book movies such as "300" (2007) and "Watchmen" (2009). Unlike the 2006 film, which was something of a sequel to the first couple of 1980s Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, "Man of Steel" is a full reboot: New characters. New stories. New costumes.

(Topic for future barracks discussions: Superman changes uniform designs more frequently than U.S. military changes camouflage patterns.)

Through a series of Superman-themed movie trailers, workout videos, and (possibly) even comic books telling the National Guard story, the new advertising campaign awkwardly welds the "Man of Steel" film to a "Soldier of Steel" theme: "Two American icons who put on the uniform when duty calls."

The narration to the minute-long Theater Spot No. 1, for example, reads:
They are in your community ... perhaps, in this very theater: Seemingly ordinary people ... who know the uniform they wear ... makes an extraordinary difference. People who always answer the call for help ... revealing who they truly are ... capable of extraordinary feats. These are the citizen-soldiers of the National Guard. Learn how one American icon inspires another, at 'Soldier of Steel' dot com.
A second, shorter spot updates a classic "grab your musket" or "run toward the sound of the guns" Minuteman moment with some super flag-and-cape-waving.

Of course, making the Man from Krypton your battle buddy carries with it some risks. What happens, for example, if the movie isn't any good? At least one critic has already commented that other general-purpose, non-National Guard-themed movie trailers make the film "look like a car commercial about a Bible story. Everyone is so moist-eyed, staring poignantly off into the middle distance as if Krypto is being hit by a Kryptonite car right off camera, while a voiceover like an insurance company remembering 9/11 talks about Humanity."

That description doesn't exactly get one's patriotic pulse pounding, does it?

And the "Soldier of Steel" title seems danger-close to repeating the mistake of the active-duty "Army of One" recruiting campaign, circa 2001-2006. "Army of One" is a silly, self-serving concept. There is no "I" in "team," and neither is there in "Army." Citizens don't put on the uniform to make themselves a singular hero; ideally, they join to become a part of something larger than themselves: A country. A community.

Finally, as in previous National Guard advertising campaigns, there are no bullets or even weapons to be seen in the "Soldier of Steel" videos. There are ground ambulances, and rescue helicopters—but nothing that would suggest that serving in the National Guard might also involve occasional deployment to a combat zone overseas. That's not exactly truth in advertising. Only Superman, after all, is completely bullet-proof.

Despite the potential for going over-the-top or getting things wrong, however, the "Solder of Steel" website's offerings are generally helpful, responsible, and compelling. Hosted by Gym Jones founder Mark Twight, for example, the themed workout videos successfully blend seemingly disparate messages about "transferable conditioning," the "Army values," and even some behind-the-scenes techniques involved in shooting the "Man of Steel" movie itself. Click here for an introduction, a warm-up, and a workout.

The campaign goes from good to goofy in a couple of other places, however, including one video segment in which director Zach Snyder asks a conference room full of soldiers, "What would you do if you were Superman for a day?" Luckily, one fast-thinking Army NCO saves the day. Rather than the usual answers about curing cancer, flying, seeing the world, or saving on gas money, Staff Sgt. Aparicto smiles knowingly at the camera.

"I'd probably confuse my son," he says, "because he already thinks I'm Captain America."

1 comment:

  1. There's no "I" in "team." But there is a "meat."


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