U.S. Navy Tests Infomercial as Recruitment Tool

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The U.S. Navy began testing an infomercial last month as part of a TV campaign to increase recruitment rates.

Because the Navy is operating ships at an average of 90-percent of designated crews, it needs to find men and women willing to enlist for four years. The infomercial includes an offer for a free video that explains life in the Navy to potential applicants.

The infomercial was produced by Rapp Collins & Co., New York. The company also produced the recruitment video that is being offered for free in the show. Hawthorne Direct Inc., Fairfield, IA, acted as a creative consultant on the project.

"Because there is a lack of information about the Navy to the general public, people have to go on half-truths and rumors, unless they know someone who has been in the Navy," said Helen Hibbott, an account supervisor at Rapp Collins. "The infomercial shows that sailors are just like everybody else and it shows them on their leisure time as well as on duty to show that they are not in uniform 24 hours a day."

The infomercial includes testimonials from sailors describing their jobs and what their life is like. It also has a celebrity endorsement by San Antonio Spurs center, David "The Admiral" Robinson, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served three years in the Navy.

"Robinson was a delight to work with," said Mark Ratner, a producer at Hawthorne. "He had told the Navy after his service that he would do anything to help them. He served two years less than the requirement for Annapolis graduates because he grew six inches while he was there."

Navy SEALs Show Appeal

Most of the sailors featured in the presentations are members of the Navy SEALS. Rapp Collins' research demonstrated that most potential Naval recruits ask about the Navy's elite force of sailors.

"Selling the Navy is not like selling other products," Hibbott said. "We used a great variety of people, but the SEALs are what draw young people most of the time."

The three calls to action emphasize the benefits of joining, such as earning money for college, 30 days of paid vacation and regular raises. Since testing for the infomercial began May 29, requests for the videos have exceeded the expectations of the producers.

"The infomercial is exceeding every goal that we set up for it," Ratner said. "There are plans for roll out in the next couple of weeks, but that decision is up to the Navy and Rapp Collins."

West Teleservices, Omaha, NE is providing the teleservices for the campaign and The Hibbert Group Inc., Trenton, NJ, is taking care of fulfillment.

This is the first time Rapp Collins and Hawthorne Direct worked with each other. Perri Feuer of Hawthorne wrote the script and Leo Zanis was the creative director.

"We brought in Hawthorne, because Tim Hawthorne is like the guru of DRTV," Hibbott said. "It was fun for Perri because she went out on one of the destroyers. The Navy was so cooperative."

Ratner said that the relationship with Rapp Collins "couldn't have been better."

"They deferred to us just at the right point when a decision had to be made," he said. "They brought us in on every decision and treated us like partners.

Much of the footage in the infomercial was shot during war games the Navy annually holds in San Diego. Only a small fraction of the footage was from archives.

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