Recruiting commercials are an interesting product from the various branches of the military. Each armed forces recruiting command creates commercials, and it’s often revealing of the differences in culture between the branches of the armed services. The Army might stress an individual’s strength with the Army of One ad, while the Marine Corps never focuses on the individual. Some sell personal achievement or overcoming difficulty. Some ads highlight bonuses and college benefits, while others offer glory and adventure.
Recruiting commercials have to constantly figure out how to appeal to the next generation of future Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and…. Space Forcers? (Guardians, actually, if you hadn’t heard.) Well, I can’t answer that question. What I can do is gather the five best recruiting commercials I’ve ever seen.
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United States Army – More Than A Uniform
The Army’s “More Than a Uniform” message does a great job with subtlety. The premise is simple, and the commercial lacks narration or loud, aggressive music. It places a focus on the uniform and uses simple text narration to show you the U.S. Army uniform is More Than a Uniform.
The More Than a Uniform commercial highlights the experiences, camaraderie, and benefits of being a U.S. Army Soldier. At the same time, it gives a glimpse at different jobs in the Army, as well as the experiences one can have, unique to the Army experience. The uniform is a passport, a symbol of strength, and a jersey to the team that is the United States Army.
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As far as I can remember, the U.S. Army has always done a good job at showing the diversity of jobs inside the Army, and the same is true here. We see pilots flying helicopters, infantry rushing out the back of them, Soldiers in lab coats, and more. Obviously, they had to toss in some of the slick “rah rah” stuff with night jumps from planes, night vision use, and the like.
Ultimately it’s a simple commercial that’s effective and engaging. It’s a unique message that does a lot in a short period of time.
United States Navy – Global Force for Good
This was the Navy commercial of my developing years. Keith David always provides powerful narration and was a great get for the U.S. Navy. His distinct voice speaks of the call to serve, and it touches on one’s sense of honor and glory. The Navy utilizes footage from World War 2 and modern-day to show the Navy’s capabilities.
We see a look at the diversity of the Navy with SEALs and SWCC teams armed to the teeth with machine guns. Of course, we see ships firing the big guns and jets flying through the sky, but we also see an intercut of Sailors helping out in post-Katrina New Orleans. It paints a look that mixes warfare with the ability to help our fellow man.
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That visual mixed with Keith David saying he’ll carry the call to serve until the anguish of those less fortunate has been soothed paints a picture of the Navy as a “Global Force for Good,” which is, of course, the tagline of the commercial. I think this beats the hell out of the old Godsmack Navy commercials. The Global Force for Good series of recruiting spots is stronger and less cringy as time passes and highlights the Navy in a more mature light.
The United States Marine Corps – Battles Won
As always, the Marine Corps doesn’t highlight a diversity of jobs or playing volleyball on the beach or what the Marine Corps can do for you. Marine Corps recruiting commercials don’t do that. Nope, this commercial highlights the battles won by the USMC from the Battle of Chapultepec and onward.
The commercial takes place over a diorama made from figures both big and small throughout Marine Corps history. Most of the ad shows the still figures doing battle with the sound of war as the background music. We see both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the GWOT as well as community support in times of disaster.
It highlights the Marine Corps’ history and its victories. It also shows their amphibious nature, and if you take a close look, you’ll find items unique to the Marine Corps, like the Osprey flying in the background. The narrator speaks of how battles are won and promises. In typical Marine Corps fashion, those promises are not self-serving to the individual, but they are the promises a Marine makes to his country and Corps. It’s simple, but to me, powerful.
Space Force – Purpose
We can pick on the Space Force for being the youngest of the branches, but we have to acknowledge the fact they released a few awesome recruiting commercials in very short order. The Purpose is one of my favorites. The Space Force can’t talk about their history or battles they’ve won, but they can talk about… purpose.
The Space Force might not have a storied past to draw from, but they have an exciting future. The commercial offers quick glances into space, Space Force facilities and operations, and it looks like it came right out of a Sci-Fi flick, which is great when you’re literally called the Space Force.
The real stinger comes at the end of this 31-second commercial when the narrator — cut between rockets launching, astronauts training, and a man looking to the stars — states, “Maybe your purpose on this planet [dramatic pause] isn’t on this planet.” As far as recruiting commercials go, this is the first one I saw that had me considering signing back up. However, as much as I want to fight aliens, it’s not enough to make me shave my beard.
United States Marine Corps – Slay the Lava Monster
Yeah, I know — two USMC recruiting commercials, and it’s a Marine writing it. So much bias! Sure, but the USMC “Slay the Lava Monster” commercial goes beyond simple branch rivalry. It’s a masterpiece of “What the hell?” It’s also the most remembered recruiting commercial pretty much ever. Mostly because it’s so utterly ridiculous.
It’s mostly CGI and bad props. It features a potential Marine running through a meat grinder — literally. He’s running through a metal tube with blades. He’s dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and more to survive. He climbs a wall of spikes that are spinning, and as he gets to the top, he retrieves a massive Eagle, Globe, and Anchor sword and walks a digital tight rope.
Once across, he fights a giant lava monster. Slicing at it with his ridiculous sword until it falls away. He then turns into a Marine officer wielding a Mameluke and doing sword drill. During the whole commercial, a narrator speaks of passing trials, mastering fear, and outsmarting your enemy. It’s a ridiculous relic of the 1980s and early ’90s. I’m not sure if the Marine Corps had a drug problem at the time, but this commercial seems like it.
This very commercial has become a bit of a meme and part of Marine Corps culture. I remember it becoming a joke during my time, and when we joked about difficult tasks, we referred to it as “Fighting the lava monster.” I once asked a stupid question during a briefing and later had to write a five-paragraph order on “fighting the lava monster.”
This commercial wins purely because of its influence on culture and ability to be remembered and referenced three decades later.
So, there you have it. These are my top five recruiting commercials. They speak to me, and I think each is rather timeless and not dependent on fads to drive them forward. I’m only one person, so I turn it to the audience, what’s your favorite recruiting commercial? Let us know below!
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Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube
Look at this ad from 1985.
It still puts chills down my spine.
Bonnie Lee Walker says
As a Woman Vietnam Era Navy WAVE Veteran I proudly Salute all who have served and are presently serving. The Navy commercial is very powerful. The Marine Corps’ “The Few, The Proud, The Marines!” brings me back to my teenage years when the Marine Corps had a powerful Recruiting Commercial on TV that gained everyone’s attention. I wish I could find it. I guess I’ll have to go by my age at the time and see if I can find it in those years. Thank you for posting these wonderful commercials.
By the way while in Navy Boot Camp in Orlando, Florida they were making a movie about Navy WAVES and they Shot a great deal of footage in our Company. Unfortunately they put two actresses in our Company when they were shootingl. I have never seen it and I would sure like to be able to find it.
The Drill SGT says
seriously, if you allow that the USAF is a ‘military’ service, then I nominate “Guardian Angels” as a classic classy ad that pushes my buttons: