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Special Project

Special Project
From the 11th Annual Shorty Awards

United States Air Force Special Operations

Finalist in Integrated Campaign


Special operators are among the most unique and specialized Airmen and, therefore, the most difficult to find and recruit. Awareness of Air Force Special Operations pales in comparison to other branches, forcing recruiters to spend 40% of their time recruiting 3% of the Air Force.


To close the gap with the SEALs and Green Berets, our primary goal in this effort was to significantly increase awareness that the Air Force offers Special Operations careers as measured by proprietary brand studies, search trends and traffic to the site.

However, the urgency of the need for special operators drove our real mission—get more of the best people into Air Force Special Operations fast.

Strategy and Execution

In a time when marketers are doing everything in their power to make things easy for customers, we had to make things hard. Only those who can rise to a challenge will succeed.

This led to three key features for development:

  1. Be viscerally immersive to make prospects feel the adrenaline of the career.
  2. Push limits—do things we've never done before—like our special operators.
  3. Present a challenge to viewers, causing them to question their limits.


The campaign was adapted for multiple placements across the digital and traditional ecosystem, including:

Paid Social—We optimized content originally created for a VR app for social usage in 360˚ video format. This allowed social media users to feel truly immersed in Special Ops missions and training without ever leaving Facebook.

Existing video content was adapted specifically for Facebook and Instagram in-feed placement as well as separate versions designed specifically for Instagram Stories. This included :06 and :15 vertical videos, complete with text overlays designed for sound-off viewing.

Organic Social Support—A combination of career-focused in-feed posts, stories and Facebook Live events ran throughout the year, highlighting Special Ops in relevant and engaging ways.

Digital Gaming—Continued support of the custom Sony PlayStation VR game, Nightfall, to generate awareness, resulting in 24,518 game downloads

Reddit Takeover—First military branch to market 360˚ video ads on contextually relevant subreddits, resulting in an 8.4-point increase in consideration intent among non-military families

:15 TV Special Operations Spots—Developed content to generate Special Ops training awareness (the same content adapted for social videos)

WHAT'S UNIQUE?: "We Need People Who Can Do This" posed an immediate challenge to anyone engaging with the campaign. Content included real-life training missions that gave a glimpse into intense scenarios special operators go through every day. The placement was fully immersive and allowed users to "try on" the Air Force in a way not previously possible.

The training mission content became immersive through the use of 360˚ video published across social channels. Through Facebook/Instagram live streams, the Air Force gave audiences access to real, active-duty special operators for Q&A and a firsthand look into internal training.

●Dual approach to paid campaign objectives to drive brand awareness and leads

Customized targeting and retargeting approach

Using the "Special Operations Training" content for the TV spot, YouTube videos and social in-feed videos intended to drive awareness, we utilized a retargeting tactic, delivering the :06 videos to those who engaged with the :15 social videos to reinforce the message and to generate leads.

●Content was customized across platforms. We didn't reuse or repurpose existing assets. The goal was to create channel- and placement-specific experiences tying back to the "We Need People Who Can Do This" strategy.

Adapted video and ad formats and lengths to target specific individuals at specific points in the consumer journey funnel (360˚ video, :15 and :06 in-feed video and stories, static image carousels, single image ads)


The campaign resulted in an 873% increase in search traffic for related keywords, and traffic to Special Ops pages increased 67%.

A Facebook brand lift study showed a 39.3% increase in ad recall (benchmark: 6.6%), 14.9% increase in brand awareness (benchmark: 3.9%), and a 13.8% increase in action intent from individuals stating they were very likely or somewhat likely to join the Air Force (benchmark: 2.7%).

The paid social campaign directly resulted in 7,379 application completions (1,156 selected "interested in Special Operations"), 51MM impressions, 6MM social engagements and 2.6MM video completions.

Organically, combining 360˚ video, live video and in-feed Special Ops content achieved 3.4MM impressions, 462,925 video views and 49K engagements for Special Operations.

This campaign catapulted Air Force Special Operations into the conversation as one of the nation's most elite and vital forces, right where they deserve to be.

Facebook Brand Lift Study Results:

Social-specific Results:

Overall Results:


Video for United States Air Force Special Operations

Entrant Company / Organization Name

GSD&M Omnicom, United States Air Force

Entry Credits