Navy Targets ‘Brightest’ African Americans

The U.S. Navy today breaks its first-ever TV commercial targeting African Americans, who already make up a higher percentage of the organization’s ranks than they do the overall U.S. population.

The 30-second spot from GlobalHue in Southfield, Mich., is meant not so much to increase the substantial number of African Americans in the Navy but to reach the “brightest and the best,” said Lt. Bill Davis, a deputy public affairs officer with the Navy.

The work shows African American and Hispanic men and women in street clothes, reflecting on how the military has helped them succeed in civilian life; images of their Navy tasks are intercut.

The last scene shows a black man standing on top of an urban high-rise. “The Navy gave me more than just a strong foundation,” he says. “It gave me the courage I needed to find the person in me.”

Interpublic Group’s Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Mich., has held the Navy’s $40 million account since September 2000 and since April 2002 has subcontracted the multicultural work to GlobalHue, in which IPG has a 49 percent stake.

GlobalHue’s effort uses C-E’s tagline, “Accelerate your life,” but is different in tone. While C-E’s spots feature action shots set to hard-rocking music from Godsmack, the new commercial is intended to be “more cerebral,” said Damon Davis, GlobalHue associate creative director.

GlobalHue’s research for the campaign, which included a national survey and one-on-one interviews with black sailors, found that young African Americans primarily join the armed forces to learn skills that can further their careers. The campaign positions time spent in the Navy as an investment in the future rather than as the fulfillment of a patriotic commitment, said Ron Franklin, GlobalHue’s director of research and planning.

African Americans make up about 21 percent of the Navy’s ranks (compared with 13 percent of the U.S. population), and Hispanics comprise 11 percent. New recruits this year have been about 20 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic and 11 percent Asian or Native American, Davis said.

The TV spot will air for three months on networks such as BET, MTV and Comedy Central. Print ads will appear in magazines such as Vibe, ESPN The Magazine, Muscle & Fitness and The Source. The campaign also includes radio, recruitment posters and Internet banners.

GlobalHue tested two other executions, including one with basketball star David Robinson, GlobalHue’s Davis said. But focus groups found the spot that was chosen to be more realistic and more convincing, he said.

The Navy’s previous minority advertising efforts were limited to print and radio work, which was created by The Chisholm-Mingo Group in New York.

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