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Army's Starting Strong Media Buy Makes Coburn 'Wastebook'

It may be a financial boondoggle to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), but it was a windfall for Fox TV stations.

Coburn released his annual "Wastebook" detailing what he says is indefensible government spending. Making the list was a $9 million reality TV show/infomercial. The Army last summer aired the half-hour show (actually 23 minutes without the commercials within the infomercial), Starting Strong, on Fox stations in 16 markets, and posted on YouTube as part of a recruiting effort.

The Army tapped both its media agency and ad agency to buy the Sunday morning time—when stations often have program-block sized time to sell—as well as promote it on social media.

The report pointed out that in describing the need to advertise for recruits, an Army spokesperson said “joining the Army is kind of like dating somebody; you don’t marry them on the first date." The Coburn report concluded: "Unfortunately for the Army and for the American taxpayer, Starting Strong was a first date flop."

It reaches that conclusion on the assumption that the audience for the show was either asleep or on their way to church when it aired, and citing YouTube stats that viewers only watched a little over five and a half minutes of the 23-minute video.