Falling short of its recruitment goals for the first time in 20 years, the United States Air Force is planning to triple its annual advertising budget to more than $60 million to support its first national television campaign.
The initial thrust of the campaign, via BJK&E in Irving, Texas, will be next month's placement of nearly 30 network spots during CBS' telecast of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament.
The Air Force will utilize its current PSAs during the spring, but new commercials will be developed for a $30 million fall campaign starting in October, according to BJK&E senior partner Tom O'Connor.
"A big part of it is the challenge we're facing right now," said Maj. Derrick Kaufman, an Air Force public affairs spokesman. "This is the first time since 1979 that we are really struggling with whether we will meet our recruiting mission. The Air Force, for the past 20 years, has been able to meet its goal without purchasing television."
A $17 million blitz will carry the Air Force through the spring, according to Kaufman, stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. The Air Force dished out $22 million in ad spending last year, he said. Those assignments comprised mainly print, network radio and Internet advertising, per O'Connor.
Network television placements will be handled by the True North-owned Bozell Worldwide network, New York, with spot TV going through Bozell regional buying offices across the country.
The Air Force planned to attract 33,800 new enlistees this year, but Kaufman said the military service's recruitment division became concerned when its first-quarter personnel goals (October to January) fell short by 400 individuals.
The U.S. Navy and Marines had previously increased their ad buying in 1998, with the former financing the biggest gain. After placing $27 million in 1997, per Competitive Media Reporting, the Navy spent $34 million in just the first nine months of last year. The Marines had a partial-year spending boost ($12 million in 1998) above its previous full-year total of $8 million. The U.S. Army has the largest ad budget among the services, spending $90 million two years ago and $67 million through October 1998.