Campaigns: CIPR Excellence Awards - CIPR Award - Broadcast - Poppy Appeal makes Basra its 2008 base

Campaign: Poppy Appeal launch from Basra
Client: The Royal British Legion
PR Team: In-house
Budget: No direct costs

Although its origins lie with the First World War generation, the Royal British Legion is a modern welfare charity supporting not only veterans, but the current British Armed Forces and their families.

The legion wanted to highlight the men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and showcase its work supporting the current army, not just veterans. To do this it decided to launch the 2008 Poppy Appeal live from Basra.


- To reach the maximum number of people through broadcast coverage during a one-day window of activity

- To link, in the public's mind, the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the work of the British Legion

- To remind the British public of the relevance and importance of the appeal

- To drive sales of poppies.

Strategy and plan

The major selling point of the 2008 Poppy Appeal launch was that it was to happen live from a combat zone. This meant overcoming some difficult technical hurdles.

The British Army's media operations team in Basra, the Ministry of Defence and the Joint Command Headquarters in Northwood were all consulted, but none were able to provide a live two-way link between London and Basra.

Sky News eventually came up with a solution and other broadcasters connected to the feed via Sky News for live interviews.

Four of the legion's top officers, 'Forces sweetheart' soprano Hayley Westenra and campaign symbol the Poppy Man were ferried out to Basra for the launch. All national broadcasters joined in the live link to Basra, where servicemen and women and the Poppy Man provided a backdrop for interviews with personnel, the legion's staff and Westenra. Broadcast outlets were also given access to pre-recorded events from Basra, including footage of a memorial service and wreath-laying with Armed Forces and legion representatives.

Measurement and evaluation

BBC Breakfast led the day from 6am with a three-minute pre-packaged report including a feature on the British Legion's care for young wounded servicemen and women.

Live interviews from Basra took place at 8.10am with GMTV, 8.20am with BBC Breakfast and 8.40am with Sky News. Further interviews took place with ITN Lunchtime News and Five News.

The BBC link to Basra was backed by a sofa interview in which a legion matron who cares for a wounded soldier in Iraq spoke about the work of the legion. GMTV also ran face-to-face interviews with Armed Forces widows and their children, and later interviewed the director general of the British Legion. In total broadcast coverage reached an audience of 5.3 million.


The launch achieved the first ever two-way video link to Basra. The number of poppies made to meet public demand rose from 36 million in 2007 to 40 million in 2008. The campaign was achieved with no direct costs to the British Legion.


Royal British Legion

This was by far the best broadcast of all. The report was produced to the highest professional values and is testimony to the professionalism of a small team of people.

The broadcast told a dramatic personal story of how the legion helps servicemen and women today, and linked this through a mascot to the legion's brand. No wonder donations to the appeal increased this year. It was a tearjerker and clearly the team's dedication and professionalism went far beyond the call of duty.

Action for Children

This was an extremely worthy winner. The rebrand from NCH had been attempted in the past but failed. Targeting a large number of employees, as well as the substantial volunteer base, the small team managed to gain widespread buy-in for the brand change as well as full support from the senior leadership team. The results from the survey were particularly impressive.

Yorkshire Water

Everything about this submission said 'winner'. The judges were inspired by the dedication of the PR team. The simple but effective collateral accompanying the submission underlined the thoughtful planning that went into every step of the PR plan. The schoolchildren provided excellent photo opportunities in the media to underline messages about water conservation.

Every PR person would benefit from spending a few minutes studying the campaign. If there were an award for the outright best piece of PR in 2008, this would be a likely winner.

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