As its account moves from longtime AOR McCann to DDB, the U.S. Army will rebrand, relocate and reassign the division responsible for managing hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and recruitment efforts each year.
According to a letter sent to leaders of the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper on Thursday, May 30 and embedded below, the entity formerly known as Army Marketing and Research Group will become the Office of the Chief Army Enterprise Marketing, effective Aug. 1, 2019.
The new organization will function as a field operating agency of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, which oversees all matters related to the management of Army manpower and personnel. It will also relocate from Arlington, Virginia to Chicago, which doubles as the headquarters of Army’s new lead ad agency, DDB.
“This reassignment includes transfer of authorities and responsibilities, personnel, and resources (funding, equipment, and property),” Esper’s letter reads. The new group’s responsibilities will be nearly identical to those of AMRG: coordinating the Army’s national advertising, public relations and events strategy while managing internal talent and maintaining relationships with agencies and other third-party vendors.
After this story initially ran, Army spokeswoman Colonel Kathleen Turner provided a statement.
“To better align Army marketing with recruiting priorities, the Army will reorganize our national marketing and advertising office,” she said. “The new Office of the Chief Army Enterprise Marketing will be located in Chicago to more closely align with the newly awarded advertising firm of DDB. This reorganization allows us to continue executing and complying with congressionally directed reforms while effectively promoting Army opportunities and recruiting qualified Soldiers. A timeframe will be announced once planning and coordination are complete.”
Spokespeople for DDB and McCann declined to comment.
Esper’s announcement comes approximately nine months after the Trump administration responded to an internal audit that found millions of dollars in “ineffective marketing programs” during fiscal year 2016 by withholding 50% of the AMRG’s budget in its latest defense spending bill. Those restrictions applied pending the release of Esper’s report on that audit, which was conducted by the Army Audit Agency and first reported by Adweek, to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives.
At this time, it is unclear whether the audit or Esper’s report facilitated the move to Chicago.
This marks a significant shift for the Army, which established AMRG in 2013 to better familiarize citizens—particularly young people—with the Army while countering “misperceptions” fostered by the entertainment industry and, ultimately, increasing recruitment totals.
“The American population is not well informed regarding its Military or its Army. Americans’ exposure to the military continues to decline,” read an AMRG overview brief published by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army in April 2018.
McCann served as the Army’s agency of record for more than 12 years. Omnicom’s Team DDB emerged victorious in November 2018 after an extended, contentious battle for a contract to oversee $4 billion in spending over 10 years, by the Army’s own estimates. Both McCann and WPP’s Possible filed bid protests against the U.S. government after the decision, but withdrew their respective complaints in January.
DDB has aggressively staffed up at its Chicago headquarters since winning the account. One recent senior-level hire formerly served as director of U.S. government contracts at McCann and oversaw the approval of all related budgets.
McCann’s initial contract with the Army ended in March, but the agency will most likely continue working on the account through the fall thanks to an extension granted during the review.
Secretary Esper’s letter is below.