The 60-second commercial for ShareTheMeal, an app that allows users to donate funds to help feed starving people through the World Food Programme (WFP), starts off celebratory, before turning dark and eerie.
First, viewers see a throng of journalists gathered around a woman named Miriam Adeke. The reporters are broadcasting that she’s made a groundbreaking medical discovery that could save up to a million lives a year.
“But there’s no discovery,” Adeke says, as the clamor and flashbulbs cut out. Adeke admits that she didn’t make a breakthrough because she didn’t go to medical school, or even complete her basic education. “I died of hunger at the age of 8,” she says. Cue the on-screen message: “Every year 3 million children die of hunger. Every time a child dies our future dies with them”–and a suggestion that people download the app to “help feed our future.”
That ad is now broadcasting before movies at theaters in over 30 countries, as part of a collaboration between the WFP and the Screen Advertising World Association, a global cinema trade association. The goal, says Corinne Woods, the director of communications, advocacy, and marketing at WFP, is to grow awareness of the issue of global hunger and how ShareTheMeal might solve it, particularly because the number of people going hungry continues to increase as a result of global conflicts and climate change.
At least 815 million people face undernourishment in the world today. Among those, 124 million were considered extremely food insecure last year, meaning they’re living on the edge of starvation. That’s up from 106 million in 2016. WFP currently spends about $7.4 billion annually on this problem, but it’s still only reaching around 91 million people. That money is supplied primarily through government aid, although there are also some corporate donations. The agency hopes everyday people can play a larger role in bridging the shortfall.
“If we don’t have enough money, those people die,” says Woods, who points out that the app makes that trade-off pretty clear. In general, WFP calculates that it takes about 50¢ to feed one person per day. With ShareTheMeal, users can choose to donate whenever they choose–the name itself works as an obvious reminder at meal time–or sign up to give a flat sum monthly. The money can be directed to a specific country in need, and users track the program’s overall impact, how different initiatives are progressing, and receive notices about their own contributions and how they’re being spent.
The movie ad includes a QR code that can be scanned by Facebook messenger to interact with the woman in the commercial–it’s basically a Miriam Adeke bot–and drive people to a ShareTheMeal donation page. In the U.S., the movie advertising groups Screenvision Media and National CineMedia have agreed to air the ads pro bono. The commercial was conceived by ad guru Sir John Hegarty and The Garage Soho, and directed by Lynne Ramsay in collaboration with the production company Somesuch & Co.
Since launching in 2015, ShareTheMeal has delivered more than 26.7 million meals to those in need. “The core proposition we developed together was to make the world wake up to the idea that every time a child dies, you lose the potential of that child, and what would have been, and that potential for [their] country or community,” says Woods. “When you’re supporting WFP, you’re not just feeding a child, but you’re also feeding the future and feeding their potential.”