It’s hard to imagine how people coped with the circumstances facing the young men and women who fought, died and lived through World War One. The Armistice was eventually signed at 5am on November 11 1918 and came into effect five hours later, ending four years of “the war to end all wars”.
One hundred years on, Westminster City Council wanted a suitable tribute to bring home the scale of the loss of 1,119,193 Commonwealth servicemen and women killed during the war.
Where better way to mark the start of nation’s Armistice centenary weekend than in Piccadilly Circus, home to one of the world’s most powerful advertising spaces, and the place where so many Londoners gathered at the end of the war when they heard the fighting was over.
Westminster’s decision to use Landsec’s Piccadilly display for its 2018 commemoration was informed by the sheer scale and magnetism of the Lights and how the screen resonates with audiences when it reverts from the usual patchwork formation to full scale domination.
Ocean research (source: Opinium, September 2018) supports the hypothesis that Piccadilly Lights is an advertising channel that resonates emotionally far more than other media.
• 313,096,803 impacts are generated every year: 49% from UK citizens and 51% from global citizens.
• 50million impacts are delivered by tourists and UK residents travelling to the area simply to take a picture with Lights.
• Survey respondents said full screen takeovers were better at commanding their attention (51%) and more impactful for messaging (43%).
To open the Council’s poignant tribute to extraordinary lives on Friday, November 9, at 6pm the screen fell silent as the surrounding area was bathed in red and black. For the next hour, the advertising gave way to a powerful, moving film to bring home the scale of the conflict and loss.
Conceived by Westminster City Council in collaboration with TMW Unlimited, part of The Unlimited Group, the seven-minute black and red feature was accompanied by the sights and the sounds of thousands of marching soldiers.
Each pair of marching boots on the screen represented a soldier killed in the conflict, with the sombre message that it would take more than 10 days and 19 hours for all of those who lost their lives to march across the screen.
The marching feet combined with 11 very personal stories and accounts of people who served during the war.
A bugler from the Band of the Welsh Guards honoured the dead with the Last Post at the end of the screening after which a two-minute silence was observed.
This was both an international memorial and an awareness piece to give meaning to the unfathomable scale of the sacrifices made and to commemorate the bravery of London and Westminster residents.
It was a phenomenal use of innovative creative technology at the heart of a London landmark which was a natural place of congregation on Armistice Day. One hundred years later, hundreds of Londoners gathered to stand and watch in silence, many sharing their emotional responses on social channels.
The moment attracted wide PR, media comment and editorial across a range of newspaper and trade titles.