Advertising for Military Recruiting:

How Effective Is It?

FPCD-76-168: Published: Mar 29, 1976. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 1976.

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Advertising expenditures for military recruiting have increased from $6.7 million in fiscal year 1970 to $96.1 million in fiscal year 1974. The purpose of military advertising, besides obtaining recruits, is to improve the public's attitude toward the military services.

When the services conduct large advertising programs they may be only competing with each other for the same potential recruit. GAO's review found considerable evidence of uncontrolled, duplicative, or inconsistent practices that offer considerable potential for reducing cost and increasing advertising programs' effectiveness. Although no one really knows how much free time is being received, most people agree that paid radio and TV will cost the services a large part of the free time now being received. Recruiting research for the all-volunteer force has lacked central direction and control. Much research done was duplicative while, at the same time, needed research was not being accomplished. The Joint Advertising Directors of Research appeared to have recognized this problem early in 1974. Their reccommendations went largely unheeded, unitl recently when the Office of the Secretary of Defense recognized the problem and began actions to make improvements.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: GAO's recommendations to the Department of Defense (DOD) include the following: (1) DOD and the four services should undertake research programs that have potential for greater improvement in the advertising program; (2) DOD should identify additional research that is common to the entire recruiting effort; (3) some mechanism should be established so that research performed by the services in common areas is not duplicative and is made available to those services having use for it; (4) the services and DOD should begin to experiment with various advertising approaches such as DOD military service advertising, four service advertising, and controlled test advertising to determine the effect of various media such as direct mail and magazine advertising; and (5) before pursuing any type of paid broadcast advertising, the services should determine how much public service announcement time is now being obtained, how effective this media is, and how much of this time could be lost if the services went to paid broadcasting.

    Agency Affected:


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