Uniform and Multimedia

BERLIN (Own report) - The German government is promoting its military policy by focusing on combat activities in Mali. On its YouTube channel, the Bundeswehr recently launched a series on German soldiers stationed in Mali. Almost at the same time, the German Foreign Ministry inaugurated on its premises an exhibition on German relations with this West African country. Whereas, the YouTube series is aimed at recruiting the next generation of soldiers, the exhibition is presenting Germany as a "reliable partner" in the "capacity building of Mali's security forces." The German Defense Ministry is also publishing propaganda reports on the operations of German troops in Mali, almost on a daily basis. The YouTube series is presenting these soldiers as combatants in the service of "peacekeeping," who unselfishly defy "dust, dirt and extreme heat." Inversely, the "background information" offered in this context reveal numerous parallels to the YouTube series' propaganda lines.

Mali and Germany

As the German Ministry of Defense announced, the exhibition "Mali and Germany - Partners for Peace and Stabilization" was inaugurated on October 18, on the premises of the Foreign Ministry. According to the report, the exhibition focuses particularly on the German troops' participation in MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) in the north of the country as well as on the EUTM ("European Training Mission") and EUCAP ("EU Capacity Building Mission") to train Malian soldiers and border police. However, German support for the "reconciliation process" between the Malian civil war parties, emphasized by the organizers of the exhibition, remains completely obscure. Instead, reference is made to "numerous projects for the capacity building of Malian security forces," such as the "construction of an ammunition depot."[1]

Soldiering in Action

On October 16, just two days before the exhibition was inaugurated, the German Bundeswehr launched the series "Mali" on its YouTube channel, presenting eight members of the Bundeswehr to give a "transparent and authentic picture" of their life in that West African country. As the accompanying script explains, "the viewers together with the newcomers are being sensitized to the dangers of improvised mines and they are watching how the soldiers are arranging their rooms - with bed linen from Germany, a bit of home abroad." It's about "soldiering in action," according to the Bundeswehr.[2] The video also shows the setting up of the German camp, mechanized patrols or combat exercises with large caliber weapons and live ammunition. The defense ministry notes that it does not want to conceal the "heavy stress" German soldiers are under. The video also includes topics such as the "permanent threat situation" and the daily "coping with high temperatures and venomous animals."[3]

Conversation in the Schoolyard during Recess

The German Ministry of Defense declared that the "Mali" series is aimed at "reducing inhibitions and insecurity related to deployment overseas" and at stimulating "interest in the Bundeswehr as an employer."[4] Logically, the videos are primarily aimed at young people from 17 years of age and young adults, which is evident from the accompanying advertising media. For example, with the internet service "Snapchat" the viewer can transform himself into a soldier or with Facebook, can communicate with the virtual press officer, "Malibot." The defense ministry has again entrusted the implementation of its multimedia recruitment concept to the Düsseldorf-based "Castenow Communications" advertising agency. This agency has already produced the "Mali" forerunner series, "Die Rekruten" ("The Recruits") as well as the "Do What Really Counts," the Bundeswehr's "employer-image campaign." Castenow has won many prizes for these two propaganda projects. The video series, "Die Rekruten," depicting young soldiers going through basic training, has won the agency the German IT Branch's "Digital Award," the German "Art Director's Club's" "Golden Nail Award" as well as the "Trendence Award" from the Trendence Institute. As Dirk Feldhaus, the defense ministry's representative for "Communicating the Bundeswehr's Employer Brand" recently declared, it shows that "a nerve was hit" and that it is possible to make "the Bundeswehr the topic of discussions on many schoolyards throughout Germany during recess."[5] This acclaimed "success" is not by chance. The defense ministry had invested around €8 million to produce "Die Rekruten" and more than €6 million for "Mali."


The propagandistic contents of the "Mali" YouTube series are also to be found in the German Defense Ministry's official statements. For example, in a report a few days ago, one could read that the German soldiers in operation in the West African country were combating "dust, dirt and extreme heat" and were under "great physical stress." However, by taking care of the air conditioning, the "maintenance platoon" makes sure "that man and material are always ready - even in the sweltering heat."[6] At another point in the text, a remark is made in reference to the "special engineers" doing the construction of the German camp in Gao, in Eastern Mali, they are "often working all day in the blazing sun at 45 degrees" and in the evenings, look as if "breaded" because of the red sand. At the same time, it is alleged that the soldiers could "save lives" through their "terrain reconnaissance" and "clearance of ordnance."[7]

Background Information

Inversely, entire passages from the defense ministry's country-specific "background information" reappears in the script of the "Mali" series. For example, the description of the "mission contingent" is repeated verbatim: "The German soldiers assume tasks in areas of leadership, liaison, reconnaissance, and consultation in accordance with international law and the European Union's rules of engagement. In addition, they support the EU Missions' personnel stationed in Mali and make significant contributions to the appraisal of the overall situation, as well as to civilian-military cooperation. The Bundeswehr is also assuming the responsibility for air evacuation of the wounded and support for the relocation and resupplying of the MINUSMA forces."[8]

Uniformity and Continuity

The uniform orientation of German military propaganda and the Bundeswehr's personnel recruitment measures are not solely the result of the influence of such agencies as "Castenow Communications." The underlying theoretical considerations go much further back in history. Already in 1929, the later PR expert and Nazi activist, Carl Hundhausen, declared that any form of advertising can only achieve its intended "memory effect" in the recipient, when it is done methodically and oriented toward the targeted group and is characterized by "uniformity" and "continuity."[9]


[1] Mali und Deutschland - eine besondere Beziehung. www.bmvg.de 24.10.2017.

[2] Neue Serie: Exklusiv aus dem Einsatz auf allen Kanälen. www.bundeswehr.de 09.10.2017.

[3] Serie "Mali": Einsatz Hautnah. www.bundeswehr.de 16.10.2017.

[4] Wenn Mali zum "Abenteuerspielplatz" wird. www.t-online.de 19.10.2017.

[5] Castenow gewinnt mit "Die Rekruten" Gold beim Deutschen Digital Award. www.castenow.de.

[6] MINUSMA: Instandsetzung im Einsatz. www.bmvg.de 23.10.2017.

[7] MINUSMA braucht Platz. www.bmvg.de 07.06.2017.

[8] MINUSMA. www.bmvg.de; Serie "Mali": Einsatz Hautnah. www.bundeswehr.de 16.10.2017.

[9] Zitiert nach: Peer Heinelt: "PR-Päpste". Die kontinuierlichen Karrieren von Carl Hundhausen, Albert Oeckl und Franz Ronneberger. Berlin 2003.