HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — U.S. Army marketers are retrofitting old advertisements to avoid losing costly commercial slots left vacant after actor Jonathan Majors’ arrest Saturday, officials told Defense News and Army Times. The arrest led the service to pull two ads in its rebrand campaign featuring Majors on Sunday.
“We have other content as part of the ‘Be all you can be’ campaign,” Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo, the service’s No. 2 civilian official, said during a Tuesday media event at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium.
He reiterated that the service pulled advertisements featuring Majors out of “an abundance of caution” and said the New York Police Department investigation into the actor “has to play itself out.”
Majors, who served as an on-screen narrator in the first two ads released for the campaign, was arrested Saturday in New York City on charges of assault, strangulation and harassment amid a “domestic dispute” with a 30-year-old woman, police officials said.
The actor’s attorney, Priya Chaudhry, vehemently denied the allegations against her client, arguing that unreleased video evidence and witness testimony will exonerate the “Creed III” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” star. She added that Majors was the party who called 911. His next court date is May 8, and it’s unclear if a favorable resolution to his case could bring the advertisements back into circulation.
But in the interim, the Army has around eight figures’ worth of airtime prepaid for the final games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, known as March Madness. The tournament concludes with two games Saturday and one game Monday, and the women’s tournament will finish on Friday and Sunday.
Advertisers and networks highly value the Final Four and championship rounds of March Madness, with 30-second spots in the final selling for around $2.2-$2.3 million, per sports news site Sportico. Though it’s unclear how many slots the Army purchased for the final games, its ads have been ubiquitous throughout the early rounds. The service also previously announced it will accompany its commercials with on-site marketing events at the event’s fan festival.
An advertising agency executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, told Defense News and Army Times that such purchases are typically use-or-lose situations. Sometimes networks offer “make-goods,” or deals that allow advertisers to have equivalent airtime at a later date, but special events usually don’t get that treatment, he said.
A spokesperson for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office, Laura DeFrancisco, said the office “repurposed” content produced for two previous advertising campaigns — “Passions” and “Know Your Army” — in order to ensure the slots aren’t unfilled. The interim advertisements will combine the previously produced work with “Be all you can be” messages and graphics, she said.
“We have not lost our media investment at this point,” DeFrancisco added. “These ads are an interim measure as we monitor the situation and review options going forward.” She also said the in-person events will proceed as scheduled.
Majors previously was not cast for the next round of “Be all you can be” television ads, a senior Army official told Defense News and Army Times.
The advertising executive lauded the Army’s plan as an “expedient solution” that will let the service avoid losing high-value airtime and the taxpayer money bankrolling it.
He also said the interim measure has significant challenges. The previous productions were part of two distinct campaigns, each tailored to their own moment and backed by their own market research — and they may not have the same effect today, retrofitted with a new tagline and graphics.
The stakes are high for the Army, too. An ongoing recruiting crisis has the service short by tens of thousands of new soldiers, and the rebrand is a major part of its plan to reverse the problem in the long term.
But beyond the TV spots, the $117 million rebranding campaign remains on track, with content targeting digital and radio audiences combining with real-world efforts like billboards, public transit placards and other displays, DeFrancisco said.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master’s thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood’s WWII movies.