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Defense Department Targets Mom and Dad

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With U.S. military operations still front-page news, Mullen's first campaign for the Defense Department figures to reach a receptive audience.

"Timing is always an important consideration when big brands field new communications, and the U.S. military is a massive brand," said Kris Washington, a partner at Boston consultancy Psynchronous Communications. "The more relevant a particular issue, the more resonant an advertising message that addresses that issue."

Defense has seldom been more relevant, and respect for the military is high. A Gallup poll taken earlier this month indicated that 82 percent of the more than 1,000 surveyed had "a great deal" of confidence in the military. But although each of the armed services met its recruitment goals last year, such poll numbers don't always lead to higher enlistments, according to one officer with the Defense Department.

"As a brand, most Americans view the military as necessary to defend peace globally and at home," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joe Allegretti, chief of joint advertising operations at the department. "But that respect doesn't translate into individual support or advocacy."

The military sets its sights on baby boomers, specifically the parents of recruitment-age men and women, in Mullen's $20 million effort.

A TV spot from the Interpublic Group shop that broke last week features Valerie Vigoda, a musician and former lieutenant in the Army National Guard. "The fact that I've decided to go for my music career and succeed, or die trying, is … a function of the confidence I gained from my time in the military," she says.

The campaign's tagline, "Today's military. See it for what it really is," seeks to strip away preconceived notions of the military among parents of potential soldiers and sailors, said George Rogers, group account director at Mullen.

The work also attempts to position the military as a viable alternative to college as far as paving the way for a career. That figures to be a strong message in tough economic times, Washington said.

Print ads broke last week in consumer magazines.

Mullen in Wenham, Mass., won the Department's $20 million Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies Program account in January 2002 following a review. Bates in New York previously held the account.