Behind the scenes of The Legion's Rethink Remembrance TV Advert

This year The Legion commissioned a 30-second TV advert as part of our Rethink Remembrance campaign. We went behind the scenes to see how it was created.

There’s a hustle and bustle at the poolside in the London Aquatics Centre, as more than 40 crew members, and a handful of extras and actors, start packing up after getting all the required footage. 

"We’re shooting all four locations today, which is kind of crazy," says Cole Pavior, award-winning director at UNIT9 Films and the man in charge of the Legion’s 2017 TV advert. "We started at about 05:00, and if all goes well, we’re expecting to be finished and wrapped by 21:00."


The scene of Great Britain’s heroics in the pool at the London 2012 Olympics has been transformed into one of four sets for this year’s Rethink Remembrance advert. The 30-second film is similar to last year’s campaign, asking viewers to rethink the role of the poppy.

"We were approached with a brief from the Legion at the start of July. They wanted to remind the public what the poppy means and stands for," explains Cole, who won two 2017 Cannes Lions – the Oscars of the advertising industry – for his directing work.

"Whereas traditionally the poppy has been about the fallen, the Legion wanted to re-emphasise that it’s a symbol of hope for the Armed Forces community, past and present."

The core idea was to show the poppy in present-day situations – highlighting how, despite its history, it is still a contemporary symbol. “In the final edit, we have poppies growing in different scenes and environments, concluding with a modern-day Flanders Fields in full bloom at the end,” adds Cole.


As the focus for this year’s campaign puts the poppy centre stage, it was important for Cole and the animation studio to create something that looked realistic but could also be manipulated to do things that wouldn’t be possible with actual poppies.

"Early on, we came up with a lot of reference material to make sure we got the right look for the poppy. The Legion’s logo and what is sold to raise money during the Remembrance period are very specific, pared-down versions of the poppy.

"We wanted to make sure the one used in the campaign was both ‘photo-real’ and appealing – it needed to have some character, and would flower into something beautiful while growing in the film.

"We knew there would be computer generation involved in bringing the poppies to life – animating them in ways not possible with real flowers. We were conscious that the viewer won’t buy into it if it’s all done on a computer in post-production. So we settled on a mix of real-life special effects, and computer-generated imagery, using a piston-like contraption, for example, to lift the tiles up in the swimming pool scene."

The final outcome: tiles that lift, in real life, with integrated animated poppies added later, which start their journeys of growth from seedlings to fully-bloomed flowers. 


"Although it’s the first time I’ve worked for the Legion, I’ve always been very aware of its work," adds Cole.

"In fact, it’s part of the reason why I wanted to do the project. I had family members who served in the Second World War. A lot of the storytelling in my personal life was passed down from them. The Legion is a great cause and its work is very emotive, so I jumped at the opportunity to work on this year’s Rethink Remembrance project." 

You may have already seen parts of the film without realising it. A set of five ‘blipverts’, each just two seconds long, have been airing on Channel 4 and its associated channels, as well as some other Freeview channels, during advert breaks for shows such as The Great British Bake Off.


"These blipverts were recommended so that we could get the most impact from our TV advertising budget," explains the Legion’s Head of Brand, Claire Timlett. "The focus on making the biggest impression possible from every penny spent has been a constant of the campaign from start to finish.

"This year’s theme builds on the well received 2016 Rethink Remembrance campaign. We thought it was a rich platform from which we could ask people to rethink a different aspect of the Legion.

"Last year, it was to emphasise that veterans are both young and old, while this year it’s about getting people to understand that the poppy is a symbol of hope, and represents the Armed Forces community, past and present.


"We’ve seen with the recent FA and FIFA row that there is a misconception that the poppy is a political symbol. We thought it would be good to remind people of its original and true meaning, which comes from the poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’.

"It seemed to be a good time to reframe people’s perceptions that Remembrance is absolutely about the First and Second World Wars, but to make clear that it is about all other conflicts too; and that, as well as being about those who have passed, the poppy represents those who are living on too."

Rethink Remembrance

The Royal British Legion is asking the nation to Rethink Remembrance by recognising the sacrifices made by the Armed Forces community, past and present.


By wearing a poppy, you aren’t just remembering the fallen: you’re supporting a new generation of veterans and Service personnel that need our support.

Find out more