This Epic Diorama by JWT Shows the History of the Marines On and Off the Battlefield

The Mill crafts a collection of remarkable CGI scenes

The U.S. Marine Corps is older than the United States itself. During the years since its founding in November 1775, members have played very active roles in some of the most significant events in the annals of this still-young nation.

A new campaign by the group’s longtime agency, J. Walter Thompson Atlanta, and production company The Mill aims to recount that storied history for would-be Marines who might not know about the battles of Huế City and Iwo Jima while also highlighting the Corps’ work away from the battlefield.

The new all-CGI anthem spot below brings a series of sculptures to life in marking the launch of a new positioning called “Battles Won.”

The project also includes a full, responsive redesign of the Marines website, as well as radio and out-of-home ads, and a slate of digital content including more than 50 videos.

“With the passing of generations who remember or participated in the wars of the 20th century, and in recognition of the battles won and sacrifices made in this century, we’re shaping how we communicate who we are and what we do to our audiences today,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, assistant chief of staff for marketing and public affairs with the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, in a statement.

In an interview with Adweek, public affairs chief and Gunnery Sergeant Justin Kronenberg wouldn’t call the effort a rebranding.

“The Marine Corps is one of the world’s most iconic brands regardless of ebbs and flows in appropriations,” he said when asked how President Trump’s promises to boost military spending might affect future marketing efforts. Kronenberg described the new work as “a fresh way of explaining who we are and what we do to our target demographic and their influencers.”

“‘Anthem’ traces the historical passage of the Marines’ fighting spirit … from the shores of Tripoli to our most recent conflicts,” JWT Atlanta creative director Tom Wilson told Adweek. “It’s not just the outward battles, but the battles that are won within by training and overcoming self-doubt and fear to become Marines.”

Wilson notes that “Anthem”—which may draw comparisons to the well-known diorama spot from a decade ago for the video game Halo 3—drew its inspiration from a series of sculptures created by artist Kris Kuksi for Marine Corps promo posters. He also pointed out the inclusion of examples of humanitarian work done by the Corps: Amid all the scenes of armed conflict, the ad also depicts post-Hurricane Sandy aid efforts and a scene in which a female Marine communicates with Iraqi women in the period after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

“They helped to bridge the cultural gap,” Wilson said regarding that scene, “because male Marines are not allowed to speak to female civilians.”

The ultimate goal of the campaign, like all such efforts, is to assist in recruitment efforts by enabling Marine recruiters “to contract the highest-caliber people to become U.S. Marines,” said Kronenberg.

More specifically, Wilson said JWT aims to push interested parties to visit the homepage and download “request more information” forms. In an effort to appeal to younger recruits, the campaign will also include an Instagram “carousel” that breaks down each of the individual battles depicted in the ad so viewers can learn more about them.

This July will mark the 70th anniversary of the relationship between JWT and the U.S. Marine Corps—agency-client longevity that’s all but unheard of in the ad industry. “People use the phrase ‘brand steward’ a lot,” Wilson said, “but this is one of the few cases where it’s true.”

“For nearly 70 years, the primary reason the American public has truly sensed the contribution of its Marine Corps is because a handful of faithful messengers have crafted, shaped and informed the understanding of what America’s Marines provide to our nation’s collective defense,” added Lt. Col. Caldwell. “The selfless actions of Marines, fighting and winning our nation’s battles at the forward edge of chaos, would be lost in the din of competing narratives if not for the brilliant efforts of J. Walter Thompson. The same applies to our Marine correspondents and professional communicators.”

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