Joined: 30 Jun 2002
|The military being pimped to hiphop crowds via hiphop 10/17
Below is the article. Visit the link so you can see the picture. It's great. Below this article is the email I sent to salon.com
The Army be thuggin' it
The military is teaming up with hip-hop bible the Source to recruit black urban kids with pimped-out Hummers and off-da-hook merchandise.
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By Whitney Joiner
Oct. 17, 2003 | Three times a week, 48 weeks a year, a four-man team drives a huge yellow Hummer to a different location. It might be a college or high school campus, a major fraternity gathering, an NAACP event, MTV's Spring Break, or BET's Spring Bling: If lots of African-American teens will be there, the Hummer wants to be there, too. Spray-painted with patriotic images (a rippling American flag, a smiling white woman in a U.S. military officer's uniform), the yellow Hummer is the signature vehicle for the U.S. Army's "Taking It to the Streets" campaign, a hip-hop-flavored tour launched a year ago by Vital Marketing Group, the Army's African-American events marketing team. During these events, the Taking It to the Streets team lets possible recruits hang out in the Hummer, where they can try out the multimedia sound system or watch Army recruitment videos. The Army's team often throws contests, too: Which possible recruit can shoot the most baskets, do the most push-ups, go up the rock-climbing wall the fastest? The winners are awarded Army-branded trucker hats, throwback jerseys, wristbands and headbands. Want a customized dog tag? They've got a machine that makes them. Want to see what it's like to fly a plane? There's a flight simulator. It's all to convince urban teens that the Army understands hip-hop culture: The Army knows you play basketball and wear jerseys, because the Army is down with the streets. "You have to go where the target audience is," says Col. Thomas Nickerson, director of strategic outreach for the U.S. Army Accessions Command, who says that the Army just reached its recruitment goal of 100,200 enlistees this year. "Our research tells us that hip-hop and urban culture is a powerful influence in the lives of young Americans. We try to develop a bond with that audience. I want them to say, 'Hey, the Army was here -- the Army is cool!'" But critics say that the Army's co-optation of hip-hop in its streetwise campaign is misleading, because it markets a life-changing and possibly life-threatening commitment as a fun, cool consumer choice. And some, like Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who argued for a reinstatement of the draftlast January, voice concerns about the overrepresentation of people of color in the Army. "One of the reasons why I advocated the draft is because, in terms of a national crisis, we should have shared sacrifices," Rangel says. "When the government says we have to stay in Iraq, we have to show that we're prepared to lose lives, the 'we' should be a broad cross-section of America. They're not asking all of America: They've targeted those Americans who are not getting a fair shake in our society."
Hello people from salon.com
I am a writer/recording artist who currently has an album out on Warp/Lex Records (Non-Prophets "HOPE") and I am now signed to Epitaph Records (just some quick back ground info.)
The point of my email is to let you know that I was thrilled to read Whitney Joiner's article on the military being pimped to the hiphop community via credible HIPHOP "sources."
It is a great journalistic piece, and your site is a wonderful vehicle to be delivering such useful messages. I couldn't find contact info for Whitney Joiner on your website, so I am passing this appreciation on to you.
I attended Warped Tour when it came through Boston this past summer. I was absolutely appalled to see that there was military recruitment taking place in the tent area. I am scheduled to be perfomring on next summer's Warped Tour. Sparks will fly if these conditions don't change. Maybe I can even pass out some literature explaining to the kiddies exactly what is wrong with all of this. Use of this article may be handy.
Fri Oct 17, 2003 10:39 am
Joined: 30 Jun 2002
thanks to Joedan, here is the rest of the article:
African-Americans and Hispanics are consistently overrepresented in the
armed forces. Even though the numbers have evened out a bit this year, the
2003 Army is 16 percent black, compared with 11 percent of the country, and
13.4 percent Latino, compared with 11 percent of the country.
The Vital Marketing Group is about to take its recruitment campaign for
African-Americans a step further by teaming up with hip-hop bible the
Source. This fall, Vital will launch a new tour separate from the Taking It
to the Streets campaign: The Source Campus Combat Tour will start in late
October, hitting five Northeastern college campuses with high percentages of
African-American students. Like Taking It to the Streets, the Campus Combat
Tour will feature interactive exhibits and physical challenges, but Campus
Combat culminates in a grand MC battle judged by the Source's editors.
"When I saw the Source was teaming up with the Army, I was outraged," says
Bakari Kitwana, former executive editor of the Source and author of "The
Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American
Culture." "It's a betrayal of their readership. The military has
historically used African-Americans, while the country has not done justice
Niche marketing to minorities is a recent development for the Army. Two
years ago, the Army's newly hired advertising agency, Leo Burnett, threw out
the stale 20-year-old "Be All You Can Be" tagline and replaced it with a
jazzy new campaign called "Army of One." This heavily researched and
focus-grouped motto -- emphasizing the Army's recognition of each soldier's
individual talents -- and its accompanying advertising blitz are especially
geared toward the short attention spans of the 72 million Generation Yers.
"It's becoming really difficult to establish brand loyalty, because kids are
bombarded with multiple messages," says Joseph Anthony, CEO of Vital.
(According to American Demographics magazine, the average teen takes in
3,000 marketing messages a day.)
To compete with all the other brands vying for kids' attention, the Army
launched a dynamic, interactive Web site with a strong cyberrecruiting team,
multilingual chat rooms, a downloadable "America's Army: Operations" video
game, and new commercials focused on Army skills that easily translate to
civilian life. And there are Army of One campaigns tailored to specific
groups. Muse Cordero Chin, the Los Angeles-based agency that heads up the
African-American-geared ad campaign for Leo Burnett, will roll out print and
TV ads predominantly featuring blacks early next year. (Muse works closely
with Vital, which creates and markets the campaign's events.) San Antonio's
Cartel Creativo has developed Spanish and English ads featuring Latin music
for the Hispanic community. And for the past year the Army has sponsored a
NASCAR car and recruited at races; the mostly white, rural NASCAR audience
has already generated over 40,000 leads for the Army.
Companies discovered a long time ago that utilizing hip-hop culture -- the
musicians, the clothing, the lifestyle, the accoutrements -- is the ticket
to selling products to teenagers. Sprite's sales skyrocketed after it
launched its "Obey Your Thirst" campaign geared to urban youth. When Tommy
Hilfiger's clothes became popular with rappers, his sales shot into the
billion-dollar range. McDonald's just signed Justin Timberlake, the poster
boy of white soul, to do a hip-hop jingle, produced by the superstar duo the
Neptunes. While most hip-hop advertising is an attempt to attract both those
who live the hip-hop lifestyle and those who just covet it -- the Army is
specifically targeting black youth with their new Source-sanctioned
campaign. Since everyone else is marketing with hip-hop -- and since it
works -- why shouldn't the Army?
A majority of African-American kids are hip-hop fans, so marketing with
hip-hop just makes good business sense, says Vital's Anthony. "[This
campaign says] 'We want to come to your environment instead of trying to get
you to come to ours,'" he says. "The Army wants to better understand your
community." (It helps that all of Vital's employees are young and black,
Anthony says. "The African-American market is more responsive to marketing
that's communicated to them through people who look like them. There's more
of a trust factor there.")
Everything about the campaign, down to the headbands and Army jerseys,
should send that message. "Those are big fashion statements in the urban
community right now, but before [Vital] was involved, those types of
premiums didn't exist," says Anthony. "We're trying to make the Army more
relevant and utilize more of these trends. If we make Army apparel a part of
their wardrobe, it just creates a connection. They're able to see the brand
in a different light, as cool."
Vital has big plans for the partnership with the Source. It doesn't stop
with the Campus Combat Tour: Vital hopes to use the 488,000-circulation
subscription list for direct-marketing campaigns, create some cross-branded
Web sites, throw more Source-branded events, and possibly even appear in the
editorial content of the magazine; eventually, there may be reader contests
in which the winners will appear in the Source.
Right now, the partnership is in a test period, says Anthony, to "see how
the relationship bears fruit," but both the Army and the Source say they
hope to expand the tour next year. And Vital wants to partner with other
"urban platforms," like Vibe magazine and BET -- albeit cautiously. "We
don't want to come out of the gate seeming as if we're trying to buy our way
into urban culture," Anthony says, "and we don't want our media partner to
be perceived as if they're selling out for money."
But what if that happens? "We've just got to try and position this as a
monumental shift in the U.S. Army's ideology in approaching urban youth," he
Besides the Source tour in the Northeast and the nationwide Taking It to the
Streets campaign, Vital produces another recruitment tool for the Army, a
comedy tour that travels to historically black colleges in the Southeast.
But Campus Combat is the only tour with another well-known and respected
brand attached. And that's critical: It's not easy to convince a bunch of
African-American teens that the Army might be their best career choice, but
with the Source, the oldest and best-known hip-hop magazine, behind it, the
Army gains some much-needed street cred.
"It gets us access," says Col. Nickerson, of the Army-Source partnership.
It makes sense that the Army's looking to hip-hop to attract urban youth,
says Craig Werner, a professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. "They know that to sell themselves they need to plug in
with the culture," he says. "The Army has been the most egalitarian
institution in the U.S., bar none, since the desegregation during the Korean
War. If an African-American kid is looking for a career in which talent and
character will be rewarded, there's no better place than the Army. Having
said that, I find the whole thing pretty disgusting. It's an attempt to
capitalize on desperation. We've created a job market in which [young
African-Americans] don't have a damn chance."
The overrepresentation of minorities in the Army is often cited as proof of
the continuing struggle for people of color in the mainstream economy. The
Army needs to target ethnic groups, says Kendall Martin, account supervisor
at Muse Cordero Chen, because it needs to "mirror" the country. "The Army
wants to make sure it improves on representing all groups," he says. "The
Army wants to look like America."
But the Army doesn't really look like America, and with a volunteer service,
it never will. And considering that one of the Army's main draws is money
for college, it's definitely not economically diverse; kids who don't need
those incentives aren't as enticed to enlist.
"If you're a middle-class black kid, you're not enlisting, any more than any
middle-class white kid is enlisting," Werner says. "The Army has nothing to
do with the general profile of American culture. It's lower middle class,
disproportionately black and brown, and disproportionately Southern and
Nickerson says he doesn't have any information on the socioeconomic
demographics of the Army's enlisted men. "We don't focus on economic
backgrounds," he says. "If you qualify to join the Army, I don't care what
your economic or social status is."
Since the campaigns tailored to minorities were launched only this past
year, it's too soon to measure their impact. But the Army has hit its quota
of enlistees -- before deadline -- three years in a row.
"I think you underestimate the commitment of young Americans," Nickerson
says, when I ask how the Army can possibly hit its numbers given the
combative state of global affairs. (After all, you've got to wonder if the
flashy ad campaigns and free headbands will keep recruitment numbers up as
the body count in Iraq continues to rise.) "We've got the best recruiting
force in the world. We've got a soft economy, and we've got opportunities
that resonate with young Americans."
For people of color, the economy's slide has been especially hard: Last
month's census data saw poverty numbers rising for all Americans, but
especially for blacks. A quarter of African-Americans are living in poverty.
It's one of the reasons why the Army-Source campaign infuriates Kitwana.
"The Army is providing jobs, and I think that is a good thing, but we have
to put that in context: Why does our country not have jobs for young
people?" he asks, pointing out that unemployment rates for black youth are
twice the rates for whites.
"One of the things that [African-Americans in the Army] complain about is
that we're over here helping these people, and that's all good, but when we
come back home, the hood is fucked up," says Kitwana, who researched the
military's economic effect on young African-Americans for "The Hip-Hop
Generation." "We can be using this same energy to get drugs out of our
community, to redevelop the economic infrastructure. It feels empty, as
important as it is, to know that we're going back home to that."
"Look at it as the Army returning to that community a better person and a
leader in that community," counters Nickerson. "Young Americans who join the
Army leave the Army a better person."
Chris White, the Source's vice president of corporate sales, says there's
nothing to criticize about its partnership with the Army. The Source is just
helping an important Source advertiser get its message out to kids. "The
Army has made a very strong advertising commitment for the year," he says,
adding that these days, advertisers are more interested in marketing
partnerships, like the Army-Source deal, than just buying ad pages. "Clients
want more than just an ad page in a magazine," White says. "This is our
first foray into doing cool marketing programs with the Army, and it's our
hope that it leads to a bigger relationship." (Calls to the Source's
editorial staff were not returned.)
The Nappy Roots, one of this year's most popular hip-hop groups who traveled
to the Middle East this summer on the USO tour, don't see a problem with the
use of hip-hop in the Army's campaigns. "I think a lot of poor folks go into
the service because that's the only way out for a better education, better
jobs, and seeing the world," says the Nappy Roots' Big V. "It's their only
way to travel. Everybody can't be a musician or a successful doctor or
Some young people in the Army's target demographic agree: "The Army gives
young people opportunities, especially urban people," says Sterling Canter,
23, of Brooklyn. "It's not all about killing. There's an upside to it."
"Joining the Army is a personal choice," agrees Devon Edmeade, 25, also of
Brooklyn. "Even if Jay-Z was passing out enlistment papers, I'm not joining.
But still -- it's a choice. They use hip-hop to market beer and clothes. So
why not the Army? I think it's cool."
But isn't it a paradox that hip-hop -- now a culture, but one based on a
genre of music rooted in inner-city resistance to the white majority -- is
being used to sell the military to African-Americans? Well, sort of, say
critics like Werner and Bakari. In many ways hip-hop's past has little to do
with its present. The last decade has seen hip-hop evolve from gangsta rap,
which reveals the hard-knock life of the projects, to a celebratory
bling-blingism that fetishizes personal acquisition and the lifestyles of
the rich and famous. From Biggie Smalls' yacht cruise in 1997's "Hypnotize"
(arguably the watershed moment for the so-called bling-bling era) to Busta
Rhymes' shill for his favorite liqueur in 2003's "Pass the Courvoisier,"
it's a bit hard to argue that hip-hop shouldn't be used for marketing
purposes, or to draw the line between acceptable or unacceptable uses of
"What has hip-hop been used for? To market mainstream capitalist culture,"
says Werner. "The contradiction is that mainstream capitalist culture is
what's keeping those kids who need the military as an escape poor. The
capitalist system wants to create a desperate labor market. It wants to
create a situation in which a whole lot of people with real talent are so
damn desperate just to make a living that they're not going to think about
the terms on which they're offered that living. You're signing up to
perpetuate the same system that put you in the position where you had no
alternative except to sign up."
Franz Mullings, 20, a student at the New York City Technical College,
agrees. "I don't think they should exploit hip-hop to get people to join the
Army," he says. "Hip-hop's not what the government is about. They don't care
about people in the hood. They don't come around when things are going down.
They shouldn't exploit our culture."
It's not the Army's place to address or solve these issues, says Muse
Cordero Chen's Martin. "I know very few marketing campaigns that have been
able to vault over and satisfy solutions for specific larger social
problems," he says. "Our goal is to present the Army as an option for career
advancement, as a life alternative, and as a way to represent one solution
out of many for African-Americans specifically. If someone's looking for a
way out of their current position, the Army presents a very compelling
For Rangel, it's not just the message -- it's the medium. "It's so unfair to
people who don't have an even playing field in this country to give them the
option to run around in Hummers and play hip-hop games," he says, "when, at
the end of the day, what you're talking about is putting their life on the
Sun Oct 19, 2003 9:22 am
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