Following its award-winning Two Minute Silence campaign in 1996,
research carried out by the Legion showed that 97 per cent of people
aged between 15 and 24 wished to observe the Silence every year. The
Legion decided to capitalise on this interest in remembrance by making
young people the focus of its 1997 Poppy Appeal.
To encourage more people to wear a poppy. To exceed the pounds 16.2
million total raised by the 1996 appeal.
The Legion was keen to find a means of communicating its message which
would specifically appeal to a younger generation. Fortunately one of
its field officers had a link with the Spice Girls’ management and the
group agreed to make a break in their schedule in order to launch the
appeal for free. To ensure the launch also appealed to older supporters,
Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn was invited to appear alongside the
Specialist entertainment PR agency Dennis Davidson Associates was
appointed to manage the event. The group’s high profile presented
potential security problems with the prospect of large crowds of young
fans. To address this, the launch venue, a war memorial outside the
Royal Albert Hall, was kept secret until launch date, 29 October.
One week before, the Legion used an exclusive in the Sun to announce
that the Spice Girls would be launching the appeal. Each of the major
papers, TV and radio stations were invited to send one
To introduce the launch, Dame Vera and representatives of the Royal
British Legion gave speeches on the significance of remembrance. The
Spice Girls, who arrived slightly late, urged people to support the
campaign and recited a line from Laurence Binyon’s poem, The Fallen.
The appeal was supported behind the scenes by Biss Lancaster, which
wrote dozens of letters asking TV presenters to wear poppies. Newspaper
editors were requested to carry a poppy on their mastheads. The agency
also approached TV soap opera production departments asking about
including visual references to the appeal within episodes.
The launch was covered on 17 national TV bulletins and 92 radio
The appeal also received blanket coverage in the national and regional
press including a piece in the Financial Times.
Many nationals carried a poppy on the masthead and a large number of TV
presenters and newscasters wore poppies. Channel 4’s soap Brookside
featured a tray of poppies in one of its episodes.
While the final total for this year’s appeal won’t be known until next
year, the Legion says that early results are encouraging. It also has
anecdotal evidence of a growth in demand for poppies among young people,
as a result of the Spice Girls’ involvement.
Despite a survey suggesting that the Spice Girls had been overexposed,
press reaction was positive. According to Mirror columnist Tony Parsons:
’It was a shrewd move and very appropriate. Vera Lynn was the Spice Girl
of her day.’
Times reporter Damian Whitworth believes that the Spice Girls are good
news for the Royal British Legion. ’For a charity to gain the support of
the band of the moment is a major coup.’
The challenge now facing the Legion is what to do for next year’s
Client: The Royal British Legion
PR Team: In-house/Dennis Davidson Associates/Biss Lancaster
Campaign: The Poppy Appeal
Timescale: July - November 1997
Budget: Under pounds 10,000