CAMPAIGNS: Spice Girls turn to poppy power - Charity PR

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.

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.



Objectives



To encourage more people to wear a poppy. To exceed the pounds 16.2

million total raised by the 1996 appeal.



Tactics



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

girls.



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

representative.



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.



Results



The launch was covered on 17 national TV bulletins and 92 radio

programmes.



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.



Verdict



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

launch.



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



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