We’ve seen in the Life Magazine examples how advertisements can serve as source material for discovering the attitudes and imagery of an era. These advertisements were created to attract U.S. Army recruits in the late 1960s and early 70s. How do these images tell the history of Army recruitment during the Vietnam War era? Read the background on these primary sources, then see if you can analyze and interpret what historical evidence they may hold.
This material comes from the personal archive of Samuel G. Michini (1944-1999). Michini worked for the Philadelphia branch of advertising firm N.W. Ayer & Son from 1962 to 1972. According to Beth Bailey in America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force, N.W. Ayer was the sole agency responsible for Army recruitment ads from 1967 until the mid-1980s (70). The material displayed here represents work from two different advertising campaigns for the Army. “Your future, your decision… choose ARMY,” ran from 1968 until 1971 (Bailey 71). According to Bailey, Ayer took over the army account at a time when the army was becoming more and more difficult to sell. Nevertheless, she states, “Army recruiting advertisements were, more than anything else, intended to attract draft-induced volunteers to the army rather than to the other services” (70). In March of 1971, N.W. Ayer & Son were assigned to a new, $10 million campaign, for a three month period. Mr. Michini worked as Copy Supervisor for the campaign. “Today’s Army Wants to Join You,” was launched in the fall of 1971. Ayer’s assignment is explained in a statement from senior staff in the May/June 1971 issue of Ayer News, the agency’s monthly news publication as follows: “We have been given an improved and improving product to work with. A ‘changing’ United States Army. An Army still totally committed to professionalism and preparedness—but with new concern for individual expression and changing life-styles” (Ayer News 1).
Analyze and Interpret
Do these recruitment ads suggest that army service is a citizen’s duty, or an opportunity? Does the message change over time?
How do these ads depict Army service?
Who were these advertisements meant to appeal to? What kind of images or phrases were used to appeal to the intended audience?VIEW NEXT GALLERY