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Childreach Goes to Hollywood

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In the world of advertising, there's no such thing as a free lunch. But that's just what Child reach/Plan got when the producers of Jack Nicholson's latest film, About Schmidt, wanted to place the nonprofit organization in their movie—for free.

"Although we'd never been a part of anything like this before, we felt it had great potential in terms of visibility and growth," said Carol Donnelly, communications director at Child reach. "We hope to gain a significant amount of new sponsorships."

About Schmidt, a black comedy, premiered in New York on Dec. 13 and will roll out nationally in January.

In the film, Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a retired insurance agent whose wife has recently died. Schmidt, who is depressed and wants to add meaning to his life, watches a Childreach ad on TV and decides to sponsor Ndugu Umbo, a 6-year-old Tanzanian boy. The sponsorship ends up having a life-changing effect on both Schmidt and the young orphan.

"Having our name used as part of a movie script where sponsorship was such a main feature could definitely help bring our story to millions of viewers," said Donnelly, who said Childreach is already encouraged by the buzz around About Schmidt.

A 60-second spot, via Boston-based Captains of Industry, breaks in theaters in January. The execution shows needy children in South America, Africa and India playing games, getting medical attention and reading in school. The images are interspersed with shots of the children's sponsors. A voiceover says, "A lot of us feel today that we've lost our way. And yet, by the child who would otherwise be lost, we can find ourselves again." The ad is tagged, "Change a life. Maybe yours."

The spot is designed "to help people become aware that Childreach is a real organization, and that anyone can sponsor a child and make a difference," said agency creative director Ted Page.

Captains of Industry is partnering with AOL to construct an exclusive online content page with national corporate sponsors. Visitors to that site will be able to read about the real Ndugu, in addition to the making of the film. Thirty- and 60-second versions of the spot will also be running on TV in local markets. The budget for the project was not disclosed.

Warwick, R.I.-based Childreach is a global organization that has been helping children and their families in developing countries since 1937.