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'Snowflakes' wanted: British army rolls out millennial recruitment campaign

The ad campaign highlights that the U.K. military spots potential "even if others don't."
Three of the British army's new recruitment ads.
Three of the British army's new recruitment ads.Ministry of Defence

LONDON — "Snowflakes," "phone zombies," "binge gamers" and "me me me millennials" are the focus of the British army's latest recruitment campaign.

Posters and billboards reminiscent of the famous World War I "Your Country Needs You" ads have been given a 21st-century twist, sending the message: "The army spots potential. Even if others don't."

The U.K. has struggled to maintain its target of 82,000 troops in recent years due to a declining number of recruits.

The new ads appear to attempt to engage millennials by connecting the stereotype of the screen-addicted generation with desirable skills. "Phone zombies" are wanted for their focus and "binge gamers" for their drive.

"We are trying to show that we are unlocking potential, potential that many elements of society may not see in young people but we do," Col. Ben Wilde, head of recruiting for the British Army, told journalists at a press briefing on the initiative Thursday.

One of the campaign's TV ads alternates between images of a young man unblinkingly playing a video game and soldiers responding to an elephant poaching in a dark field and rescuing survivors following a natural disaster.

"We are not saying we want binge gamers, but want the attributes of someone who plays computer games all night that they might have, someone might have that degree of resilience, of stamina, of know-how," Wilde said.

"Snowflakes" — a criticism often thrown at millennials for allegedly lacking resilience and being prone to taking offence — are said to be wanted for their compassion, while "me me me millennials" are sought for their "self-belief."

The posters generated debate on Twitter with some saying the campaign reflected incredible desperation on the army's part to recruit with others questioning the caliber of "snowflakes" to serve.

Nick Terry, a marketing director behind the campaign, said they aimed to combat stereotypes placed on today's youth.

"I think 'snowflake' was the word of the year in the Collins Dictionary in 2016," he said. "The message we're trying to get across is the army doesn't actually recognize those labels and we just see the potential in that generation, whoever they are, whatever their background."

Targeting all backgrounds is a pronounced yet unspoken message across the messages. Recruits in the ads feature women and visible minorities.

Only seven percent of British youth know someone who is involved in the armed forces, Terry said. Entering the third year of this campaign, the army is aiming to reach communities who wouldn't otherwise be exposed to serving as a potential career-path.

Another TV ad alternates between a young woman working at supermarket and personnel dodging Molotov cocktails.

The U.K. has the fifth-largest defense budget in the world, according to a 2015 report by the British government, following the United States, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia.