INTERNAL REPORT: Veterans Affairs forgot to include poppies in Remembrance Day TV ads

Who forgets poppies on Remembrance Day?

Well, according to an internal report newly released by the the Department of Veterans Affairs -- the Department of Veterans Affairs does.

The report, ominously titled "Disaster Check of the 2014 Remembrance Advertising Concept," details the reactions of focus groups to early versions of TV ads "designed to demonstrate Canadians’ pride in, and appreciation for, our Veterans" in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day.

The report, dated December 2014, notes focus groups "were surprised not to see typical Remembrance Day imagery. The most noted omission was the poppy." 

Instead, focus group participants were left with the impression that the ads showcasing tanks and fighter jets were a "recruitment ad" for the Department of National Defence.

Phase 5 Consulting, the PR firm that prepared the report for Veterans Affairs Canada, advised the department to "include an image of the poppy" as "it is a popular and well recognized symbol across generations and immediately communicates the intent of the ad."

It seems VAC took the advice.

The final cut features an image of a garden of poppies that looks to have been hastily edited into the bottom-left corner of the screen. The poppies appear for three seconds at the beginning of the ad before fading away. (The ad also replaced a grey banner displaying the URL of VAC's website at the end of the ad with a banner featuring poppies.)

Other complaints centered on the way military "equipment" features more prominently in the ads than veterans or current members of the Canadian Forces.

Many focus group participants particularly questioned the inclusion of images of fighter jets, tanks and warships to mark Remembrance Day. "Although some liked the images of the fighter jets," the report says, "generally speaking, most would prefer images of military personnel working in the field and less footage of equipment."

During one focus group, several young adults who viewed the Remembrance Day spots said they "initially thought it was a recruitment ad."

As well, one "frequent suggestion was to include more images related to our peacekeeping role," such as members of the Canadian Forces "helping a child in another part of the world" or "images of soldiers helping overseas."

"A frequent suggestion was to include more images related to our peacekeeping and humanitarian role and to include images that illustrate the hardship of war," the report concludes, pointing out that "participants indicated that the less powerful images related to modern day had a ‘commercial feel’ which gave the impression of an ad focused on recruiting rather than remembrance."


Under a government-wide policy, all departments are required to release the final reports of all commissioned public-opinion research within six months of the completion of data collection.

Photo: Veterans Affairs Canada.