War for Talent


BERLIN/BONN (Own report) - Last week, the German Bundeswehr launched a new recruitment propaganda campaign. The advertising campaign includes three prime time commercials on public and commercial TV channels. The thirty-second video clips depict soldiers in civilian dress going about their off-duty activities with the objective of portraying soldiers as "everyday people," "with a private life like anyone else." The spoken texts emphasize the soldier's camaraderie, patriotism, and orientation on the common good - all reference to their use of violence is obscured. This new propaganda offensive is part of the "Attractiveness Agenda," announced by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) aimed at presenting the Bundeswehr as a modern, "people oriented" employer. The agenda also promotes the "embedding" of the Armed Forces in German society.

Exceptional Experiences

On October 20, the Bundeswehr launched a new recruitment propaganda campaign to attract "potential candidates," and recruit professional and leadership personnel, according to its announcement.[1] The campaign includes three prime time TV commercials aired around 8 p.m. on the ARD, ZDF, Pro7, Sat 1 and RTL channels. The thirty-second video clips depict soldiers in civilian dress going about their off-duty activities to emphasize "soldiers in the Bundeswehr are everyday people, with private lives, like anyone else." "Essentially, the people in the Bundeswehr are no different than anyone else. Only the exceptional experiences make this employer special."[2] The fact that those "exceptional experiences" above all, include warfare and violence is not even mentioned.


Only one of the three TV commercials mentions the reality of war. However, German soldiers are not depicted as those using violence. They are "victims," who came "under fire," according to the commercial's protagonist, Marc Fuss, who served in Afghanistan as captain of an Operative Information unit, responsible for psychological warfare. He adds that he has seen soldiers "stronger" than him burst out "in tears" after the battle. However, this observation does not provoke him to examine critically the circumstances. On the contrary, he uses it to praise the "camaraderie" of the soldiers, who repeatedly reassure soldiers, showing signs of weakness.[3]

More than Just an Office Job

Warfare experiences play no role in the other two TV commercials. They depict the "military profession" as a service to the common good, which is manifested, for example, by combating flood disasters or "protecting life" through new developments of military technology. As a protagonist declares on the Bundeswehr's website, "I serve Germany, because I like to aid others and this helps me in my own development."[4] And she lavishes praise on her "employer, the Bundeswehr," who offers his employees an "incredibly wide variety" of activities. "As a soldier, I attend courses all over Germany, occasionally do guard duty, have shooting practice, and maintain my physical fitness. My service is more than just an office job."[5]

Attractiveness Agenda

Under the Motto, "Bundeswehr in the Lead. Active. Attractive. Different," the current recruitment offensive is an element of Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen's recently announced "Attractiveness Agenda." According to the head of the department, this is a comprehensive "packet of measures" for making service in the German military more attractive. Over the next five years, for example, around 100 million Euros will also be used for improving child care facilities, for installing refrigerators and providing internet access to military bases and billets, for creating an "on-the-job health management" service as well as additional possibilities for vocational advance training.[6] The minister's stated objective is "to be far out ahead in the competition for Germany's best minds."[7] Von der Leyen makes it also clear that her campaign, above all, is aimed at an accelerated restructuring of the Bundeswehr from an army of national defense to one of military professionals, a globally deployable army of intervention. "The time, where we can pick and choose from a large pool of draftees, is over. In the future, young people will come to us, if they find us interesting. We, more than ever, are in competition with the other employers."[8]

Professional Stress

The implementation of the ministry's "Attractiveness Agenda" is largely following along the lines of recommendations made over the past few years by two studies, carried out by the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr (ZMSBw). During the studies, several thousand soldiers were asked to what extent the German military ensures the "compatibility of family with profession." Results showed that, for many of the interviewees, the "situation of child care" is, "by far, the biggest problem."[9] "Professional stress" for family fathers and mothers (-to-be) also should be "sustainably reduced." As ZMSBw's pollsters emphasized, particularly the latter would apply, in terms of the "attractiveness of the Bundeswehr as an employer" fighting in a "war for talent."[10]

National Bundeswehr Day

Military scientists are also proposing that Bundeswehr soldiers' increased "engagement in associations" and other "cultural activities" should be facilitated, because these are "important points of contact between the military and civilian spheres." "Stringent restrictions in this field would reduce the indispensable integration of soldiers into civilian society."[11] The ministry's "Attractiveness Agenda" is considering these suggestions. To further "embed" the troops in the population, a "Bundeswehr and Society" Prize is scheduled to be awarded, by the end of the year, "honoring individuals and institutions for their particular engagement in the interests of the Bundeswehr or its personnel." The Defense Ministry has announced its intentions to inaugurate next year a national "Bundeswehr Day." Right on time for its 60th Anniversary, the Bundeswehr will once again be depicted as an "attractive employer," "with hundreds of interesting civilian and military occupations." "The more receptive the population is toward the Bundeswehr, the easier it will be to motivate and fascinate members of the public for particular duties ... inside the armed forces."[12]

[1] Neu: TV- und Online Kampagne. www.bundeswehr.de 17.10.2014.
[2] Bundeswehr startet neue TV- und Online Kampagne. www.bundeswehr.de 17.10.2014.
[3] Karriere mit Zukunft: Die TV-Spots zur Kampagne. www.bundeswehr.de 20.10.2014.
[4] Ingenieurin Lisa-Maria Lenhart: "Für mich war klar: Das ist genau das, was ich gesucht habe." www.bundeswehr.de 17.10.2014.
[5] Oberfähnrich Inga Britt Gläßmann: "Als Soldat kann ich Menschen helfen." www.bundeswehr.de 17.10.2014.
[6] Ursula von der Leyen: "Bundeswehr wechselt auf die Überholspur". www.bmvg.de 30.05.2014.
[7] Bundesministerium der Verteidigung (Hg.): Bundeswehr in Führung. Aktiv. Attraktiv. Anders. Berlin, Juni 2014.
[8] Ursula von der Leyen: "Bundeswehr wechselt auf die Überholspur". www.bmvg.de 30.05.2014.
[9] Anja Seiffert/Julius Heß (ZMSBw): Afghanistanrückkehrer. Der Einsatz, die Liebe, der Dienst und die Familie: Ausgewählte Ergebnisse der sozialwissenschaftlichen Langzeitbegleitung des 22. Kontingents ISAF. Potsdam 2013.
[10], [11] Thomas Bulmahn/Jana Hennig/Chariklia Höfig/Meike Wanner (ZMSBw): Ergebnisse der repräsentativen Bundeswehrumfrage zur Vereinbarkeit von Dienst und Privat- bzw. Familienleben. Potsdam 2014.
[12] Bundesministerium der Verteidigung - Presse- und Informationsstab: Agenda Bundeswehr in Führung. Aktiv. Attraktiv. Anders. Berlin 2014