Does Reverse Psychology Work In Military Recruitment?

"Don't Join The Army." The tagline of the video and poster ads jumps out from their packaging - leaving the viewer in no uncertain terms as...

"Don't Join The Army." The tagline of the video and poster ads jumps out from their packaging - leaving the viewer in no uncertain terms as to what the key message is.
It continues, "Don't stand on your own two feet, don't make a difference, don't become a better you."
There are no military personnel involved - instead they depict young people discussing with those they trust most whether joining the army is the right move for them.
This is the Ministry of Defence's £2 million response to two problems. First the need to recruit approximately 10,000 new army regulars to replace those ending their service in 2016-17.
And secondly how to grab the attention of a demographic of 16-24 year olds who live on their phones and for whose attention, their message will have to compete with thousands of others on a daily basis.
So first of all - will it get seen by its target audience - and crucially once it's seen will it be acted upon?
Major General Chris Tickell, Commanding Officer for Army Recruitment and Training says hits to the British Army recruitment website are up 10% on what they were at this stage of last year’s campaign - 1.2 million visits in fewer than two months. Likewise the number of those applying in January is up 10% too.
But only approximately 1 in 7 applications transmits into a new recruit - meaning they need 70,000 applications altogether. There's still some way to go.
Maj Gen Tickell: "This campaign is all about getting a little bit further under the skin and to get people who haven't necessarily thought about joining the army before to really start to have the debate both amongst themselves and on social media. I have to say all our testing, and we did an awful lot of testing before we ran the campaign, has been hugely positive and if you start to look at the results of the campaign I'm very encouraged."
But young people we spoke to were more sceptical, arguing that reverse psychology was a crude and unsophisticated technique, calling the ads aggressive, confrontational and negative. They believe their peers will see through the strategy and think less of the institution that sanctioned it.
They did however agree that these ads were a talking point and for good or bad, were more likely to get noticed than something more 'vanilla.'
Stephen Foster is the editor of - he believes that's why this approach will work.
"The point about advertising is first of all, it needs to be noticed. If it's not noticed then there's no point in doing it."
"That is a way to make sure that people will take notice of it and to that end it's trying to be grittier, more realistic and I think if you're going to try to appeal to ‘Generation Z’ ie young people, then I do think trying to talk to them in their own language in a realistic setting is probably the right thing to do."
There's no doubt that this is a radical solution and a move away from the positive army ads of the past, often involving military personnel on deployment, shooting weapons and dropping out of planes.
As Major General Tickell concedes, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. One factor that is in the MoD's favour is the lack of employment opportunities available for young people.
IF all these ingredients combine to recruit the necessary numbers and don't alienate people in the process, expect to see more shock and awe ads like this in the future.