Be All You Can Be and Other Great American Slogans

by Frank M. Ahearn (June 5, 2004)

Aol Time Warner showed a photo of a young American holding a rifle, fear of attack this summer the words read. The person holding the rifle was a woman, she is someoneís child. Many questions went through my head, streaming, gleaming and pounding. Does the soldier believe in the cause? Or is the soldier a victim of great advertising prior to the war? You can be all you can be, someone was paid a handsome fee to write that slogan.
The few the proud! Get an edge on life! Itís not just a job. Itís an adventure! Were looking for a few good men! Be part of the action, aim high! You and the Navy full speed ahead, all catchy slogans but where are the warning labels? You might get shot or even maimed. The government makes cigarette companies place warning label on each and every pack. Barís have a warning about drinking while pregnant. When you buy a blender it has a warning label too. Cigarette and liquor companies are not allowed to advertise on TV. Beer commercials canít show someone sipping beer.
Remember those great commercials of men repelling, fighter planes zooming off a carrier. We all wanted to do that. It reminds us of when we were children and played army in the safety of our parks. The difference is there was no real enemy, no real bullets flying past our fragile heads. The armed forces ads are no different then Wheaties telling us itís the breakfast of champions. How can it be the breakfast of champions when anybody can eat them? Below are a few of the top ad campaigns of the century.
Volkswagen, "Think Small",
Coca-Cola, "The pause that refreshes",
Marlboro, the Marlboro Man,
Nike, "Just do it",
McDonald's, "You deserve a break today",
DeBeers, "A diamond is forever",
Absolut Vodka, The Absolut Bottle
Miller Lite beer, "Tastes great, less filling",
Ranking number eighteen in the top one hundred of the century is U.S. Army, "Be all that you can be", N.W. Ayer & Son, 1981. If I understand the goal of advertising correctly it would be to sell a product. Letís assume some unsuspecting eighteen year old buys the product and joins the service. What happens if he does not become all he can be? What if he loses a leg in battle and is now handicapped. Is he allowed to sue the army for false advertising? That young man will never be all he can be. Then he will be discharged out of the few and the proud. The government assisted in all those law suits against the tobacco companies. Which ironically a few of them made the list of the centuryís top one hundred.
3) Marlboro, The Marlboro Man, Leo Burnett Co., 1955
44) Winston cigarettes, "Winston tastes good--like a cigarette should" 1954
46) Camel cigarettes, "I'd walk a mile for a Camel", N. W. Ayer & Son, 1921
60) Lucky Strike cigarettes, "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet", Lord & Thomas, 1920s
Most citizens have an opinion of the war Iraq. Some believe itís for democracy, some believe itís for oil. Some believe its imperialism. At this point is really doesnít matter why, we are there. The youth of this country are dying and the number has climbed to over 600 after the president told us the war was over.
Santa Monica beach had over 600 crosses on the beach representing the Americans that have died for the cause. As I looked to all the crosses I thought to myself it doesnít matter why were in Iraq. What matters is the plain fact that people are dying. A small sign read that the beach would be filled if they placed a cross for every Iraqi that died. Are the Iraqiís really our enemies? How many Iraqiís were flying on September Eleventh?
Which reason are we in Iraq? Is it weapons of mass destruction? Or are we freeing the Iraqi people from Saddam? Why didnít we free the Iraqiís from the UN embargo? That embargo did not allow proper medicine in the country which caused the largest homicide of children under the age of five.
To some I probably sound like a commie pinko, in reality I am a capitalist. A lot of American companies will profit big time in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why not offer some of the profits to those who fought and secured the countries for the large corporations. Give a couple of shares of Halliburton presently trading around $29.00 a share. Wouldnít it be a fine gesture of all those American companies to line the pockets of the service men and woman? Not simply the share holders.
When democracy catches on in Iraq and Afghanistan they can get to know the other side of democracy. They will know that a little dab will do you and this budís for you. Nike will offer a new brand of Middle Eastern sandals for those that just want to do it. Families will have the urge to see Iraq in their new Chevrolet. In the distant crowd we will hear Ahmed yell ĎWhoís that behind those Foster Grants?" Itís important we let them know that they donít have to be Jewish to enjoy Levys rye bread. Last but not least George Bush can replace Joe Isuzu and tell them freedom is not cheap.

Dear Frank,
Thank you very much for this excellent article. 
In Canada, our Department of National Defense also uses the slogan "Aboriginal Pride" to suck our First Nations people (i.e. Indians and Eskimo) into the military (for some reason some must think Aboriginals need to join the military to have pride).  I cringe every time I see it because I have a lot of First Nations people that I work with.  (Of course, the military in all countries goes after low income, disadvantaged peoples to serve in the military -- my mother called them "cannon fodder" and said that no mother wanted her child to become cannon fodder.  I am sure this had an early impression on me.)
Like you, I also have felt that there should be the appropriate warnings about enlisting in the military.  Not only might it kill or maim one physically, it can also "kill or maim psychologically".
Final comment -- I believe we peace builders will have to come up with our own catchy slogans.  Some already exist, but we need to become better advertisers.  Unfortunately, we do not have the budget.  But I am always looking to recruit Marketing professionals to help us "Sell Peace".  This is something I would like to "beef up" on our web site.  A couple of related articles on our web site you might be interested in: and .  And then there is Psyops generally -- -- unfortunately this is why we can no longer trust the Administration.
Best wishes.
Bob Stewart