2007 - 2022

This is Belonging

The new British Army advert is astonishing.


This image – one of a series – shows soldiers larking about in the ruins of some land. The emphasis is on ‘Belonging’ ‘camaraderie’ and community, all attributes noticeably missing from contemporary life, and arguably even more so from young men’s lives.

But here’s the twist. Belonging comes from occupation. The squadddies are having a real laugh in the bombed wreckage of somebodies home, somewhere.

The British Army employ ad companies to create this mood-music In this instance a company called Karmarama.

The campaign they say draw inspiration from Millennials’ oft-stated desire to find a career that allows them to make a positive difference to the world.

According to Karmarama, “The majority (81%) of UK adults believe it’s important to actively contribute towards a worthwhile cause. This latest insight-led campaign for the Army calls on young people who want to be part of something bigger to act on these ambitions, and consider a career in the forces.”


“We decided to highlight real and authentic army contexts and moments that clearly show the importance of being part of a strong and selfless family that accepts you for you, and gives you the chance to work together for a meaningful purpose,” says Nik Studzinski, Chief Creative Officer at Karmarama.

Organised violence as antidote to anomie. Invasion as response to crisis of community. Be the Best.

The UK military recruits 2,000 16 to 17-year-olds, making up a quarter of all new enlistments, according to figures compiled in a parliamentary briefing by Child Soldiers International. Following an outcry over the deployment of 17-year-olds to the Gulf War in 1991, and to Kosovo in 1999, the armed forces amended its rules stopping soldiers under 18 from being sent on operations where there was a possibility of fighting. Despite this, at least 20 soldiers aged 17 are known to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq due to errors by the MoD.

As Duad Alakbarov reported for Bella last year:

“The armed forces continue with their policy of targeting their school visits excessively to schools in deprived areas and children from low-income families, the Department of Education ignores the UN’s recommendations that some form of peace education should be part of the curriculum in UK state schools, and supports initiatives encouraging a military ethos.

According to ForcesWatch report, the armed forces recorded 1783 visits to 377 Scottish education institutions. 1455 visits were to 303 Scottish state secondary schools, of which 42% were made by the Army, 31% by the Navy and 27% by the RAF during the academic years of 2010-11 and 2011-12. This equates to an average of two visits per year for every state secondary school in Scotland.”

The UK remains the only country in Europe to recruit 16-year-olds into its armed forces. This is despite recommendations from the United Nations committee on the rights of the child and the parliamentary joint committee that the minimum age for recruitment be raised to 18.


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Comments (17)

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  1. SleepingDog says:

    I was somewhat surprised when I saw the advert for much the same reasons given here; the subtext is fairly imperial. The soldiers are presented living in their own bubble, detached from the consequences of their actions.

    The photograph is presumably intended to look unstaged; there are no locals draping the soldiers with garlands (possibly the locals are all dead, and the flower crop has been wiped out by defoliants).

    Of course, as we know from history and stray recordings that from time to time appear in the public domain, their banter may be less than idyllic.

  2. florian albert says:

    I saw this advert recently on a bus shelter. It struck me as being astonishingly effective. I barely notice 99% of such adverts.
    If we accept that we should have armed forces (I do) and that they are entitled to advertize for recruits (I do), there is no point in objecting to them doing so effectively.
    Maybe, the SNP should find out who was behind this particular campaign and sign them up to promote independence.

    1. Interesting. You don’t address the key arguments put though. A) that it is astonishingly manipulative and cynical B) that British Army targets the youngest and poorest c) that Scottish schools are disproportionately targeted. Is all of this just fine?

      1. steve says:

        I often find that the most vocal defenders of this are ex-squaddies, which is hardly surprising, as they are properly brsin-washed during their training.

        1. Trader1 says:

          Actually I know of ex squaddies who are bitterly disappointed and angry at their treatment once they no longer serve a useful purpose to those in power, especially those who have been left with psychological issues following their service. These adverts constitute mental abuse.

          1. Calum McBroom says:

            These men and women are lauded as the salt of the earth when walking down Whitehall past the cenotaph, rightly so for those who have made sacrifices and done daring deeds.

            The other side of the coin is injured and subsequently physically and mentally disabled for life ex service personnel who are left to their own devices without support. No home, no family and no hope, completely unacceptable.

            There are things the armed services have done that I do not agree with, e.g Iraq, Libya and Syria, but it was not the troops who declared an illegal war in Iraq it was blair, brown, straw et al.

            We could and should do more for our ex service personnel, but in the first place we should not be sending them to war on dodgey dossiers and then ignoring if they come back home broken!

      2. DaveM says:

        Most advertising/marketing is manipulative and cynical by definition. The whole point of it is to capture the attention in order to effect a behavioural choice or change. Being ‘nice’ doesn’t work in advertising of any kind.

        I’m not defending the advert, by the way. I spotted one on my way home from work yesterday and was pretty horrified by it and the message it was trying to potray.

    2. Pogliaghi says:

      And do you think an iScottish armed forces should be recruiting under-18s? And do you think their ad-men should be utilising imagery of bombed-out foreign countries? Or appeals to emotional manipulation?

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I think the problem with the Scottish independence movement is that many nats, even whilst they rally to an often-superfluous, tribal and reactive anti-Westminster rhetoric and symbolism, are, in the pejorative sense, too culturally British.

    3. Julian Smith says:

      But there should be advertising standards surely? I saw a recruitment van with notices outside listing the places in the world you could see as a member of the Army. No mention of Afghanistan or Iraq. And a list of all the activities you could take part in. No mention of being shot at by snipers or blown up by roadside bombs or killing other human beings. And certainly no mention of suffering serious injury or mental stress such that the rest of your life is blighted.

  3. Hamish says:

    I too was angered when I saw this on TV. I despair.

  4. w.b.robertson says:

    I am old enough to have done 2 years National Service in the British Army, a long time ago. What is wrong with this advert? NS would not be a bad thing for some of today`a youngsters, particularly the yobs and neds who are sentenced to pussy footing “community service”.

    1. Andimac says:

      Aye, quite right and while we’re at it bring back the birch, oh aye, and hanging, hard labour and transportation. That’ll make real men of all these big jessies!

    2. Julian Smith says:

      Weapons have been developed enormously since the days of National Service. The risks to infantry soldiers today are very much greater than they were then. I’m not arguing against some form of Service, but rather that recruiting for a professional army that engages in offensive campaigns is somewhat different from serving in a role that is supportive of society.

  5. Pogliaghi says:

    Bill Hicks’ dictum that the advertising and marketing industry should just go ahead and commit mass suicide (- no seriously, just go ahead and do it -) was truly inspired by the likes of “Karmarama”

  6. Aaron says:

    When I was a young man nearly 30 years ago, there was an advert about some anonymous lad on a bus listening enviously to girls talk about another lad who had joined up to be a soldier. The message was crystal clear: Join the army and get laid.

    This is David Lynch in comparison

  7. Graham King says:

    The advert is a lie. This is not ‘belonging’. This is ‘going where you are made to go, and doing what you are forced to do’ – including being targeted, possibly disabled, while targeting and maybe killing others, and seeing colleagues die horribly.

    Then, eventually – if you survive to return home – surely, though, profoundly affected – struggling to ‘live a normal life’… without ‘belonging’ either to armed forces (which have little interest in those whom they have made liabilities), or to civilians (many of whom find the UK’s recent warfare overseas repugnant and dishonourable).

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