Lord Kitchener Wants You was a 1914 advertisement which was developed into a recruitment poster. It depicted Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, above the words "WANTS YOU". Kitchener, wearing the cap of a British Field Marshal, stares and points at the viewer calling them to enlist in the British Army against the Central Powers. The image is considered one of the most iconic and enduring images of the war. A hugely influential image and slogan, it has also inspired imitations in other countries, from the United States to the Soviet Union.
Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, recruiting posters had not been used on a regular basis since the Napoleonic Wars and UK government advertisements for contract work were handled by The Stationery Office. Rather than pay the government rate to newspaper publishers, the Stationary Office contracted this work to R. F. White & Sons publishers. J. E. B. Seely, then the Secretary of State for War awarded Sir Hedley Le Bas, Eric Field, and their Caxton Advertising Agency a contract to advertise for recruits in the major UK newspapers. Eric Field designed the prototype full-page ad with the Coat of Arms of King George V and the phrase "Your King and Country Need You." Britain declared war on the German Empire on 4 August 1914 and the first run of the full-page ran the next day in newspapers owned by Lord Northcliffe.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Herbert Asquith had appointed Kitchener as Secretary of State for War.Kitchener was the first currently serving soldier to hold the post and was given the task of recruiting a large army to fight Germany. Unlike some of his contemporaries who expected a short conflict, Kitchener foresaw a much longer war requiring hundreds of thousands of enlistees.
According to one author, Kitchener reacted well to Field's ad although insisting "that the ads should all end with 'God Save the King' and that they should not be changed from the original text, except to say 'Lord Kitchener needs YOU.'" In time, Le Bas formed an advisory committee of ad men to develop further newspaper recruiting ads, most of which ran 11 vertical inches two columns wide.
Alfred Leete designed the image as a cover illustration for the 5 September 1914 issue of London Opinion, a popular weekly magazine, taking cues from earlier recruiting ads. At the time, the magazine had a circulation of 300,000. In response to requests for reproductions, the magazine offered postcard-sized copies for sale. The Parliamentary Recruiting Committee obtained permission to use the design in poster form. A similar poster used the words "YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU".