Military Intelligence is an oxymoron, Part 1


We harbor the somewhat delusional opinion that consumers are waiting with bated breath to follow our communication across all media channels. See the Youtube video, click the Facebook link at the end. See the sneak peek behind the scenes short at the cinema, so you can then share it on your special app.

The reality is that it’s hard enough to get someone interested in viewing even one ad. But let’s assume for a second it is true. Some brands do an excellent job of maintaining the unified message. Adidas and Nike and Starbucks are consistent across all media. So no matter where you are, you see the same message, even if the executions change.

I wondered how does the U.S. Armed Forces advertising stack up? Are the Army, Navy. Air Force and Marines telling our undisciplined asses to sign up, man up, earn money for college and protect good ol’ ‘merica in a consistent way?

The answer is, sometimes no. And sometimes yes.

Armed Forces are using social media to disseminate as much information as possible. But it’s overload. Too many places to visit, too much to internalize. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the military’s organizational structure that the communication comes in a lot of compartmentalized parts, Just like the mess hall tray that separates your potatoes from your mystery meat.

The armed forces all have both an officially sanctioned military site, and a general recruitment site. A .mil and a .com, to be precise. Why they need two sites, I’m not sure.

The question is are the military departments doing a good job of presenting themselves to civilians? I took a sampling of various media for all four forces communication. Here’s what I found.

The U.S. Army.

A visit to presents a bunch of topical information. It is as utilitarian as one would imagine. Easy to navigate. It suggests Army life is filled with strength and adventure surrounded with carefully selected diverse people who want to serve.

Go to and it’s a different story.

The “about section,” gives no hint of the fun and adventure that awaits. Rather, it presumes you are already a recruit, ready for discipline,. It even makes you obey its rules for engagement, er, commenting. No profanity! (Sir, yes sir!) No Spam! (Sir, yes sir!)

The featured shorts rotate but when I went to the site a few times, I was greeted with a featured story about a double amputee who is competing in a 5K run. It’s rousing and inspiring. But a slightly different message than the Goarmy website which never doesn’t mention this aspect.

But try going to Go Army Videos.
There, you you can see an actual recruitment spot, which is what I was actually looking for.

The spot, from a year ago, is everything you’d expect from a pitch rip video. Not much else.

So from a communication standpoint the Army can’t seem to make up its mind which side of itself to show.

Rank: Private First Class.

The Navy:

The official Navy site is quite boring. It’s mostly text based, with RSS feeds taking up the bulk of the site.

A visit to is a bit more interesting. Front and center is a slideshow of recent news (Celebrating Women in the Navy, an in-depth profile of a Navy recruiter, etc.) as well as their newest commercial.

Interesting choice to have the spot so front and center on the site. It’s part of a campaign that launched back in 2009. The tagline ”A Global Force For Good,” is controversial, and almost universally disliked by veterans, and currently enlisted.

According to an article in the Navy Times, Phil Altzier, Navy Recruiting Command’s head of advertising even described is as being “…absolutely a risk,” to talk about something other than getting money for college. Kind of a stunning sentiment considering how many wars we happen to be in.

Regardless, like the Army, the rest of the site is functional, efficient. And whereas the Army had a virtual assistant on its site named Sgt. Star, which was buggy and skitter, The Navy offers a live chat feature.

The Navy’s Youtube channel presents a more interesting picture. Here, Videos geared toward daily life, with a bent on excitement (diving, rescue, etc.) and more.

What’s interesting is the “About Me,” section. Where the Army just listed a bunch of links, someone actually took the time to fill out the section, and while it is a bit over the top patriotically, is does keep with the overall campaign direction. Labeled under Interests:
“Defending freedom, delivering food, water and shelter to those in need, rescuing people and saving lives, keeping the world's oceans safe, open and free of sea pirates.”

If not overly exciting, they are at least more consistent than the Army.

Rating: Chief Petty Officer.

Coming up: Military Intelligence is an oxymoron, Part Two

about the author

kidsleepy 17 year copywriter, now CD, who has worked in many cities including Pittsburgh, New York, Atlanta, Montreal and currently Los Angeles. I snark because I care. I ain't complainin' I'm just tellin' it like it is.

Comments (2)

  • formerly known as wendellwit's picture
    formerly known ... (not verified)

    It must be noted that the meme "Military Intelligence is an Oxymoron" goes all the way back to 1975 and the debut of Saturday Night Live in which the late great George Carlin did three short standup segments, one a mini-rant about religion, one comparing baseball to American football and one playing with words he COULD say on television. He finished up with the contradiction that is the term "jumbo shrimp", or as he put it, "JUMBO shrimp" which he said were two words that just didn't go together... "like Military Intelligence". Big laugh, go to commercial. That minute of of late-night television inspired me to start collecting examples of Linguistic Paradoxes, as I called them... the word Oxymoron wasn't in common use, and Carlin didn't use it. In the many years since, George Carlin has frequently included collections of Oxymorons in his TV appearances (like I said, words he COULD say on TV) and in his books. Meanwhile, I kept a pad of paper in my desk at three different jobs to which I wrote down 'Oxys' whenever I found them. I had accumulated nearly a thousand by 1998 when I noted that lists of Oxymorons were popping up on 'personal web pages' all over the internets, a few even longer than mine. In a moment of pun-making clarity, I decided to increase my collection (through selective stealing from other lists) to 2000 Oxymorons by New Years 2000 and put them on a web page I would call "The OXY2K". That mission was accomplished, with a Tripod freesite and some really ugly web design...
    (Gee whiz, did I actually put a 'warning' that the page with all the oxymorons was 'over 310K'? It was a simpler time.)
    At one point I migrated the list to the domain name, but attempts to turn it into a genuine functioning searchable database turned into a smoldering pit that I really must get back to one of these days. Anyway thanks for making it to the end of this "extensive briefing".

    Apr 05, 2012
  • Dabitch's picture

    Hey wendell, long time no see. Email me if you need a new password mate.

    Apr 06, 2012

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