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Army History

What made you join up? Army recruitment adverts through the ages

The British Army has produced a series of recruitment adverts over the years, but what made you join up?

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The British Army has produced a series of recruitment adverts over the years.

Their latest recruitment campaign, called ‘Fail, Learn, Win’, aims to show the positives of failure and how failing is not a reason to quit.

As the fifth iteration of the ‘This is Belonging’ series, the new campaign is integrated across TV, radio, online and social media.

In TV adverts, one soldier is shown face down in the mud, with another struggling to keep pace on a training march.

Both soldiers overcome these moments and are seen to leave their failures behind due to the belonging that comes with being part of the British Army.

Radio adverts use examples of failure in an Army context, showing how by training, aiming and pushing hard enough, soldiers can achieve their full potential.

This includes one soldier with a fear of public speaking embracing her mistakes, another soldier failing to create a stable satellite connection, and a Reserve soldier struggling to speak while swimming in their gear.

The latest campaign follows 2020's 'Army Confidence Lasts a Lifetime' recruitment drive, which looks to show the confidence built in the Army in contrast to the "quick hits of confidence that fade fast in the modern world", according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD).


The Army also released the 'Your Army Needs You' campaign in January 2019, which comprised video, radio and poster adverts.

The campaign was designed to show how the Army was looking beyond young stereotypes and "sees people differently" and recognises their "need for a bigger sense of purpose", according to British Army Major General Paul Nanson.

The campaign also featured Kitchener-style illustrations of soldiers with stereotype labels which were featured as billboards and outdoor advertising around the UK.

Based on the historic 'Your Country Needs You' First World War poster featuring the stern-eyed British field marshal Lord Kitchener, the new billboards called out to "Me Me Me Millennials", "Class Clowns", "Binge Gamers", "Phone Zombies", "Snow Flakes", "Selfie Addicts", saying the Army needed their potential and assets.

These were named as their self-belief, spirit, drive, focus, compassion and confidence.


The £1.6m campaign featured a series of adverts, all voiced by serving soldiers, with questions being asked such as "What if I get emotional?" and "Can I be gay in the Army?".

One of the adverts shows a Muslim soldier explaining how the Army has helped him to continue to practice his faith.

Other past adverts have focused on different aspects of military life such as the sense of achievement that comes with serving, or the ability to travel.

In 1992, the Army released the well-known Frank advert, featuring an imaginary soldier of that name travelling around the world having the time of his life, while his friends sat at home bored. 

The advert gained such prominence it was parodied in the satirical Private Eye magazine, as well as the TV show Spitting Image.

This harrowing advert from 1998 shows soldiers liberating a town at night and coming to the aid of victims of an unnamed war.

It was especially aimed at recruiting female soldiers, who might be able to better aid female victims of war.


This much longer film from the 1970s provides a worldwide tour of the British Armed Forces, introducing recruits to the Gurkhas and the forces in Germany.

The advert directly calls for "intelligent men" and highlights ongoing conflicts such as The Troubles in Northern Island.


This controversial advert from 2009 made Army recruiting into an interactive experience, where players could decide how to act in a high-alert situation online.

The ad proved controversial as some accused the Army of turning war into a video game. 


These adverts from 2006 for the air assault and light infantry forces featured a narrator highlighting the different locations a recruit could travel to.


They feature a series of slick cuts, including soldiers parachuting into a club on a Friday night. 


In 2016, the Army released a series of adverts that employed reverse psychology to attract recruits under the umbrella theme of 'Don't Join The Army'.

The campaign faced heavy criticism for being ineffective in attracting recruits.