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This Massively Ambitious UN Campaign Aims to Be in Cinemas Around the World

Multi-channel push hopes to reach 7 billion people in 7 days

"We Have a Plan" features character designs by Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman Animations.

A commercial being billed as the first global cinema ad will star animated animals as U.N. delegates and Liam Neeson as the voice of God.

The minute-long spot, created to generate buzz for new goals the United Nations has devised to make the world more livable, premieres today in New York.

Announced at the Cannes Lions festival in June, the project was backed by SAWA—the Global Cinema Advertising Association—and developed by director and humanitarian Richard Curtis in partnership with BBH co-founder Sir John Hegarty. The animated critters come courtesy of Aardman Animations, creators of Wallace and Gromit. U.S. cinema advertising companies NCM, Screenvision and Spotlight Cinema Networks are also participating in the campaign. The world premiere takes place at Manhattan's AMC Empire Theatre during an event that begins at 5:30 p.m.

"I'm hoping that people will see the ad, remember it, talk about it, share it," Curtis said in a preview for the film, which you can watch below. Hegarty added the PSA has an interactive component that will allow it to communicate directly with users' mobile phones, which they will be instructed to leave on during the ad.

"We Have a Plan" will appear in movie theaters worldwide. That distribution will follow Friday's adoption by 193 world leaders of the U.N.'s 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which address major issues such as poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change.

Those goals are the focus of a hugely ambitious, almost entirely pro-bono multimedia initiative designed to reach 7 billion people in seven days through Oct. 2. Billed as "The World's Largest Advertising Campaign," the push features participation from film, music, sports and TV stars, as well as various types of support from global media players like Bing, Getty Images, Google, Huffington Post, MSN, Skype, Wikipedia, Yahoo and many more. In addition to "We Have a Plan," there will be messaging across every conceivable type of media in hundreds of nations.

"These are really huge problems, and so we wanted to make a really big noise," said Gail Gallie, a co-founder of Project Everyone with Curtis and Kate Garvey. The organization seeks to promote the Global Goals on a grand scale. "Our view is that the world cannot fight for its rights if they don't know what they are," Gallie said. "And frankly, 'Tell 7 billion in seven days' is more inspiring than 'Tell as many people as you can over an undefined period of time.'"

Among the campaign's highest-profile elements:

  • An online film in which Stephen Hawking discusses the importance of the Global Goals.
  • "We the People," a crowd-sourced film assembled by Curtis and Mat Whitecross that will be promoted on Google's homepage this Friday when the goals are adopted.
  • "No Point Going Half Way," a film by Curtis featuring Usain Bolt and imagery and video from Getty.
  • Events and rallies in more than 100 countries are slated for Sept. 24 from the 2,000 organizations that make up action/2015. One of those rallies will take place outside U.N. headquarters in New York.
  • Radio Everyone, a seven-day pop-up global radio station, will be streamed online with broadcast partners in over 45 countries, a soundtrack by Peter Gabriel and shows presented by artists including AR Rahman, D'Banj, G.E.M. and Haile Gebrsellasie.

Could going so big actually dilute the message? One expert on socially minded marketing fears that might be the case. "Having so many different people express the same ideas in so many different ways recognizes diverse voices," said Osocio blogger Tom Megginson. "But, as marketing, it misses an opportunity to tell a simple story that everyone can understand and retain."

Those behind the effort insist that a multifaceted and omni-channel approach is essential to spur awareness across a complex and crowded media landscape.

"This campaign has an historic and monumental aim," said Susan Smith Ellis, CMO of Getty Images, which is providing visual assets for the effort. The endgame, she said, is "to reach every single person on the planet, and also to show leaders that there's an unprecedented opportunity to achieve these goals on a global scale."

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