The British Army has run paid Facebook ads on and around the day when the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) grades were announced, offering the teens a career in the military if their academic results didn’t turn up as hoped, according to the Guardian reports. The response to the parliamentary request by MP Liz Saville Roberts has revealed that the British Ministry of defense spent £1.7m on social media ads between 2015 and 2017, most of which were run on the Facebook.
The newspaper specifies one of the commercial Facebook messages, dated August 2015, when the scores are revealed.
“No matter what your results will be, you can still improve yourself in the army,” the ad read. It featured a photo of happy-looking men in soldier's uniforms.
Rachel Taylor, the director of programs at an NGO named Child Soldiers International, which fights the military exploitation of young men worldwide, called targeting teens around exam results day with “idealized and unrealistic” ads “shameful.”
“Targeting army advertisements at teenagers when they are stressed and vulnerable is abhorrent. These adverts prove once again that the MoD is deliberately targeting children at the lowest limit of the legal recruitment age to fill the lowest qualified, least popular and hardest-to-recruit army roles,” she stated, as cited by The Guardian.
The organization has repeatedly criticized Britain, which remains the only country in Europe to recruit boys as young as 16, and advocated raising this bar to 18. According to Child Soldiers International, servicemen under this age are less immune to mental health problems, even if they are not sent to war zones, as is the case in the UK.
The Ministry has rebuffed criticism from the Facebook campaign and defended recruitment around the GCSE result day.
“It should be no surprise that, like most major employers, our recruitment campaign applies some focus on individuals leaving school, college and university, as this is when they make career decisions. As the UK’s largest provider of apprenticeships, the army is proud to offer all education leavers the opportunity to better themselves while enjoying an army career,” the army spokesperson said, according to the Guardian.
The recruitment practices of the British army have already come under fire as the media revealed last year that their campaign had the key audience of young people aged from 16 to 24-year-old from the lowest social and economic groups as well as specifically targeted youth in cities like Manchester, Sheffield Birmingham, Belfast and Cardiff.