The United Nations is courting Cannes rosé drinkers for cash, creatives and an integrated ad campaign

'Feed Our Future' by The Garage will launch in September

The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has debuted a teaser for its upcoming cinema ad – a study from Sir John Hegarty on the repercussions of early death. But the decision to launch at Cannes Lions wasn’t wholly based on creativity: the organisation is systematically targeting those splashing the cash at the Carlton in order to establish serious partnerships.

The ad, from Hegarty’s The Garage, is dubbed ‘Feed our Future’ and is poised to launch in 28 countries this September. Set in an fictitious press conference, it features an African lady named Miriam being interviewed about her breakthrough scientific work that has saved millions of lives. Yet, as she speaks it transpires she herself is an illusion – having died of starvation when she was eight years old.

The unsettling spot is the result of an ongoing alliance between the UN and the global cinema advertising association Sawa.

Its chief executive, Cheryl Wannell, first rallied her global membership to support Richard Curtis’ Project Everyone back in 2015, and now the industry body has shifted to work directly with the UN.

While the WFP’s chief marketing officer, Corinne Woods, is palpably grateful to the cinema industry’s support of the cause, she’s resolute in her need for a fully integrated campaign and the assistance of other marketing disciplines. So she's flown from headquarters in Rome to the “bubble” of Cannes Lions in order to make that happen.

“As a chief marketing officer you want an integrated campaign, but I don’t have the budget for an integrated campaign,” she told The Drum. “So I’m here to say, we have the most brilliant partnership [in Sawa], brilliant proposition and the most amazing film - now take that and become our partners across other mediums.”

She adds that this isn't simply about having a couple of conversations: "We will walk away from this week with a set of partners who have the commitment of [Sawa], that will actually deliver," she vowed. "You can only do that at Cannes. We need to get to where the world of creativity is.”

Backing it, Cannes Lions has brokered a hack project taking place throughout the week, whereby four creatives are working on translating Hegarty’s cinema creation into a native communications message on the platform. The festival's chairman, Terry Savage, has also briefed the Young Lions Digital Competition to build a digital campaign around the ad, while students of the Young Marketers Campaign are working to build a brand for the WFP.

Cannes may feel a million miles away from the level three hunger emergencies in South Sudan, Yemen and Syria, yet the WFP is taking advantage of the gluttony and sky-high prices commonplace on the Croisette.

Woods implored the audience at the ad’s premiere to download its Share The Meal app, which allows consumers to donate 50 US cents (the cost of feeding a child for a day) just by tapping their phone.

Additionally, the developers of the official Cannes Lions app have built a push notification mechanism encouraging delegates to download it. The mobile message is sent each day of the festival at lunchtime, when attendees are likely to be tucking into an expensive gourmet meal.

Share the Meal and 'Feed our Future' are just the beginning of the WFP’s plans to really develop its brand and foster a consumer donation base. Woods is aware the organisation lacks awareness in the public domain when compared to sister agencies such as Unicef, largely because 90% of its funding comes from governments. As such, her brief to Hegarty was simply: tell the story, and get people to act via the app.

The resulting cinema ad, which thanks to the direction of Hollywood’s Lynn Ramsay shines with a powerfully glossy aesthetic, feels unique among the many crisis charity TVCs in the space. Hegarty’s vision from the start was to create something that would compete in cinemas against “car ads, jeans ads and drink ads” – not just other non-profit creative.

“It’s got to stand there and be counted” he said. “A lot of charity work is wonderful but a lot of it feels like a one-off. We’ve got to build a campaign. We’ve got to make the UN’s World Food Programme famous.

“It’s got to look real – it’s got to look like it’s from a movie. This performance has to stand up to [Hollywood]. It has to be a great performance."

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.