Straight answers from Sgt. Star

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For a two-dimensional character, the Army's Sgt. Star seems to have an activity calendar that would put even a debutante to shame.

Not only is he a key direct marketing tool on the Web site, Sgt. Star has his own MySpace page. There are plans to leverage the popular icon within other Army marketing and advertising efforts.

Army IT manager Paula Spilman says the first step, already underway, will turn Sgt. Star into a 3-D interactive character. "Based on the popularity, we're going to expand him beyond the Web," she says, noting that Sgt. Star could also make appearances at live Army recruiting events. "It's possible he could become popular as an Army brand to some extent - it depends on what we want to do with him."

MRM SVP David Hohman adds, "Sgt. Star, as he becomes more and more known, is almost a spokesman." But he adds the fact that Sgt. Star representing the Army carries with it an added burden not found in marketing characters representing a cereal, car or other consumer product or service.

"I think the biggest difference is we're asking young people to make a life-changing decision and one that is potentially hazardous," Hohman concedes. "We need to make the argument compelling enough that the risk-reward ratio is, in fact, equitable. æIf [I] type into Sgt. Star, will I go to Iraq?' The answer is æYes, there is a strong likelihood that you will.'"

Because of that, Sgt. Star hasn't been designed to represent the Army as a whole - rather he attempts to mimic the voice and attitudes of the average career soldier.

"They've been there; they've done it. People are more willing to listen to people saying it than a marketer trying to sell them," Hohman explains.

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