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Spike Lee: 'Do the Right Thing,' join the Navy

U.S. Navy images
Images from Lee's latest project

CNN's Jennifer Auther looks at how Lee is helping the Navy solve it's staffing problem
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May 27, 1999
Web posted at: 8:05 p.m. EDT (0005 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) - The U.S. Navy teamed up with Oscar nominated filmmaker Spike Lee in Manhattan Thursday to unveil five new television commercials aimed at attracting more recruits.

Lee, who was selected by the Navy and BBDO Advertising in New York, has been hired to create and direct six television commercials to date.

The often-controversial director behind the hit movies "Malcolm X" and "Do The Right Thing" actually bid for the Navy assignment.

"I'm very grateful to be given the shot," said Lee, "because there are some backwards people in the world -- some people who have a very narrow vision of who I am, of what I'm about, and what I can do."

Of the six commercials, five were presented by Lee aboard the USS WASP in conjunction with the 12th Annual "Fleet Week" and touched on themes ranging from "Life After The Navy" and "Education". The sixth commercial, "Travel," is scheduled to be shot in Hawaii at a later date.

USS John Paul Jones
An example of the need for more recuits is the USS John Pual Jones which is short 30 sailors  

The campaign, aimed at 17 to 21 year olds, will make a public debut on Friday in almost 16,000 movie theaters across the nation, preceding 16 different summer releases, including "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace."

Ads are also scheduled to run on youth-oriented television networks including the WB, ESPN, MTV, and BET. The spots will also air during the NBA playoffs and upcoming NFL broadcasts.

Last year the Navy fell almost 7,000 recruits short of its goal.

Commanding Officer Edward Brownlee said a strong U.S. economy means more options for potential recruits, leaving each branch of the military scrambling.

"When people say 'Why Spike Lee,?' I say 'Why not,?'" he said. "He's able to connect with an audience we're interested in recruiting."

Neither the Navy nor the advertising agency will say how much Lee is being paid for his work on the commercials.

Correspondent Jennifer Auther contributed to this report

U.S. Navy
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