Detractors and meddling busybodies have been claiming for decades that video games are criminalising are youth and making them more prone to violent behaviour, but a bold and potentially controversial new campaign from Rothco aims to turn that presumption on its head. The agency have pulled off a stunt, aimed to encourage recruitment in 18 - 24 year olds, which sees The Irish Defence Forces become the first military in the world to create a first-person interactive video. The campaign started with the launch of a mystery FPS (First Person Shooter) game represented by a ticking clock that counted down the hours until the March 10 launch. A shock revelation was in store for those waiting for the launch at 12pm, however, as it was revealed that the origin of “A New Dawn” was not a game developer, but real life.
A New Dawn is in fact the start of a clever recruitment campaign, which began last week with a teaser trailer similar to the type of advertisement people would normally associate with the launch of a major game. But the real part of the campaign was be put into action at the game’s launch, with visitors to the custom-built site who are expecting to find a game instead finding out they can play for real. A first-person interactive video puts skill, determination and courage to the test, ultimately determining if gamers have the right stuff to apply for the Defence Forces. Of course, many will argue that it could be misconstrued as irresponsible or insensitive to present real life combat as comparable to a video game, but there's definitely a tongue-in-cheek element at play here that elevates the campaign above the realms of propaganda.
Katie Oslizlok, Account Director at Rothco, explains: “As a small neutral country, there’s a lack of understanding amongst the Irish public as to what the defence forces do which has a knock on effect when it comes to recruitment. We were tasked with changing that perception, and in doing so, convince 5,000 18-24 year olds to apply for a career with the Defence Forces. We decided to shift brand perceptions by immersing young Irish men and women in the awesome reality of a career in the Defence Forces.” Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, added: “How we are reaching out to potential recruits is different this year, but what we offer them remains the same. A career in the Defence Forces is an opportunity to serve your country and to make an impact in some of the world’s most troubled regions while also receiving first class training and education along the way.”
The interactive video uses a real soldier avatar to fully immerse game players in the reality of becoming a soldier in a platoon which is conducting a joint land, sea and air assault. The scenario, where every decision has a consequence, offers an unprecedented opportunity for players to appreciate the skill, determination and courage required of Defence Forces personnel as they conduct their basic training. At the end of the game players are directed to the recruitment website. The Defence Forces innovative approach to 2017’s campaign is building on the year before’s female focussed campaign that won a Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. Since the launch last Friday (March 10) the Defence Forces have already had 14,000 unique hits on the site and 3,223 click throughs to join the Defence Forces, so it's obviously working. The real question, however, is how Rothco might deal with the backlash if certain elements of the media take umbrage with the campaign's message.