The Army’s marketing arm, responsible for dishing out billion-dollar contracts for advertising efforts like recruiting, is moving from its long-time headquarters near the Pentagon to Chicago in an effort to get closer to the talent, according to Army officials.

A May 30 memo by Secretary of the Army Mark Esper announced the move, which comes after the service awarded a $4 billion contract to DDB Chicago, a full-service ad agency in the city.

The company will be responsible for a range of initiatives intended to build brand perception and drive leads for marketing and recruiting needs led by the Army Marketing and Research Group.

The contract was a big win for the city, with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailing it as a “tremendous achievement that brings billions of dollars of investment to Chicago and will support hundreds of good-paying jobs.”

Beginning in August, the Army will start looking at the transition plan, Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emmanuel Ortiz-Cruz told Army Times. That process involves selecting a new building space and moving “under 50” personnel throughout the fall and winter, he said.

“In 2020, beginning next year, that’s when they’re going to be fully operational,” he said. “You have the talent there and you have the new contract with DDB, which it will be co-located near."

“There’s no plan yet, it was just an order, and now we’re kind of working through the process of re-designing. We know they’re moving to Chicago, but not where in Chicago," Ortiz-Cruz added.

The change in location and new contract could help with the Army’s recruiting shortfalls, as it has struggled to meet its goal of a 500,000-strong active-duty force by the end of the next decade.

The move also comes after Adweek, which first reported the story, uncovered that an internal audit found millions of dollars in “ineffective marketing programs” during fiscal year 2016. In selecting DDB as its new ad agency partner, the Army severed its contracts with McCann Worldgroup, which had been the Army’s ad firm for more than a decade, according to Military.com.

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act also directed Esper to submit to Congress a report on recommendations from that marketing audit concerning contract oversight and return on investment.

Esper’s general order memo also re-designated the Army Marketing and Research Group as the Office of the Chief Army Enterprise Marketing and reassigned it as a field operating agency of the deputy chief of staff.

“The Office of the Chief Army Enterprise Marketing will coordinate the Army’s national marketing and advertising strategy, develop and maintain relationships with the marketing and advertising industry, and develop marketing expertise and talent within the Army to support the Regular Army, Army National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve,” the secretary’s memo reads.

The new marketing office will take the lead on a range of advertisements and commercials, most of which are focused on recruiting efforts.

The Army debuted a new recruiting slogan in October. (Army)
The Army debuted a new recruiting slogan in October. (Army)

Last fall, for instance, the Army unveiled a new recruiting campaign that focused on the combat arms branches of the service using the slogan “Warriors Wanted.”

The imagery is combat arms heavy, per Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s direction. But another campaign being rolled out soon will focus more on science, technology, engineering and math, with an emphasis on how spending four years in the Army can prepare students for college and pay for it too.

As it stands, Army ads focus on military jobs, but not necessarily military life, which is a defining part of serving.

Army Recruiting Command’s Maj. Gen. Frank Muth said at AUSA’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, in March, that the Army can also learn from the British Army’s “Snowflake” recruiting campaign that focuses on concepts like belonging to a group and busting myths about military service.

“Because we never show soldiers off duty. And we never show soldiers having families,” Muth said at the March event. “And I’ll tell you, some of the misperceptions among the Z Generation are, ‘Can we own a dog? Are we allowed to own a car? Do we always live in the barracks? Am I allowed to get married? Can I have children?’ And we don’t necessarily convey that.”

Military Times Pentagon bureau chief Meghann Myers contributed to this report.