A British Army soldier patrols with an armed police officer near the Houses of Parliament in central London.
CNN  — 

Gone are the stereotypical images of gun-toting, muscle-bound soldiers roughing it in the wild.

Instead, the British Army’s new animated recruitment campaign emphasizes the organization’s emotional support, with a particular focus on minorities.

The new advertisements feature questions such as “Can I be gay in the Army?”, “Can I practice my faith in the Army?”, and “What if I get emotional in the Army?”

The TV ads are voiced by real soldiers and cost $675,000 (£500,000), a UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson told CNN.

In one, a gay soldier talks about feeling accepted, while in another a Muslim soldier speaks about being free to pray at work.

They feature the tagline “Find where you belong.” However, the overarching motto of the army remains “Be the best.”

‘Onion soup’ approach?

The gentler advertising approach is part of the army’s drive to recruit beyond its traditional “white, male caucasian 16 to 25 year old” demographic, according to Gen. Nick Carter, the army’s top officer.

“Our society is changing and I think it is entirely appropriate for us therefore to try and reach out to a much broader base to get the talent we need in order to sustain combat effectiveness,” he told the BBC.

But retired Col. Richard Kemp questioned the advertising approach, saying on Twitter: “The main appeal to most people who want to join the army (maybe except some in tech corps) is the macho.

“If they wanted to dish out onion soup they would join an NGO. If you volunteer for the Army it’s because you want to fight.”

Falling short of recruitment targets

The British Army has struggled with recruitment in recent years, resulting in a “hollowing out” in the ranks, according to a government report commissioned in 2017.

It found that a combination of high employment, an aging population, young people staying in school longer, increased obesity and falling defense budgets had all contributed to recruiting difficulties.

In mid-2017 the UK regular armed forces numbered 138,350. Of this, the Royal Navy and RAF fell 10% short of their recruitment target and the Army was 30% below its goal.

Black, Asian and ethnic minority personnel represented just over 7% of the armed forces, the report found, versus 14% of the 53 million-strong population in England and Wales in the 2011 census. Minority percentages in Scotland and Northern Ireland are significantly lower, according to official figures.