RSA makes digital poppy push, highlights plight of modern veterans

Anzac Day is arguably the most important day of the year for the RSA, due to both the historical significance of the event and the important role it plays in annual fundraising.

Traditionally, a significant proportion of donations have come from cash contributions made by New Zealanders on the street, at work or in shops. But in an increasingly cashless society, it’s becoming rare for New Zealanders to carry a few spare bank notes or gold coins with them.

Spark’s head of brand, communications and experience Sarah Williams says it was incredibly important to help the organisation overcome this issue when developing a supporting campaign this year.

In addition to setting up a text donation service for the RSA, Spark also worked with its agency Colenso BBDO to set up a digital campaign that would draw attention to the fact that New Zealanders could easily donate via text.

Dubbed ‘you don’t need change to make change’, the campaign also called on New Zealanders to change their profile pictures in a show of support for the cause.    

Williams says that a second equally important objective was to help relay the fact that the RSA doesn’t only function to commemorate important historical events but also to provide assistance to modern veterans.

She says there’s a perception that the money donated to the RSA is only about supporting WWI veterans when this isn’t the case at all.

She says that modern veterans have a completely different set of needs to those that came before.

“We now understand that veterans carry mental as well as physical wounds,” she says.

These mental wounds tend to impact the younger generation of veterans, with RSA statistics showing that 75 percent of those suffering from post-traumatic stress are under 45.

These statistics and others of this nature are the subject of a number of radio spots, also developed by Colenso BBDO, running concurrently with the digital campaign.

As explained by RSA chief executive Jack Steer: “Veterans and ex-servicemen and women suffer from a range of conditions, dealing with the effects of their service. That can be physical, mental, emotional or financial. Post Traumatic Stress Illness (PTSI) can impact veterans and affects different people in different ways. It is one of the areas that veterans and ex service people may need help as they manage the transition after operations overseas or when adjusting to civilian life.”

This also ties into the RSA’s online video campaign, which tells the story of a veteran who makes the point that it isn’t only about going to Afghanistan but coming back as well (this video was done in-house by the ANZ corporate affairs team).  


Advances in our understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder and related mental illnesses have exposed how significant those mental wounds can be.

Statistics out of the United States reveal that one in five veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, leading to 22 veteran suicides a day.

And while the local figures aren’t as disconcerting as those, the RSA still plays an important role in ensuring that local veterans find the support they need to integrate back into society.

And although ANZAC Day may have taken place over a century ago, the mental struggles those soldiers faced are no different from those modern combatants have to deal with. 

“The RSA’s role has always been to support returned service men and women,” says Steer. “It can be a surprise for people to learn we have more veterans now than at any time since the end of the Second World War. Of the 41,000 veterans in New Zealand, 30,000 are from operations since the end of the Vietnam War in 1974. And many of those people now need some support.”

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