What good will World Humanitarian Day do?

This Sunday is World Humanitarian Day.

It’s a campaign that’s reached over 100 million people so far and is aiming to make social media history by reaching one billion people. That’s right – one BILLION.

This from Michael Wolff of The Guardian:

World Humanitarian Day is … well, I have no idea what it actually is. It is meant, in some way, to commemorate the work of Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the high-ranking United Nations official who was killed in Baghdad in 2003. De Mello was from Brazil and Brazil is a new world power, and getting the UN to sponsor World Humanitarian Day is a demonstration of its enhanced status.

Every congress, or legislative body, or communal gathering the world over has various parties and interests who are always coming up with ceremonial or commemorative or self-congratulatory or plain old PR puffery occasions. The vast majority of them go unacknowledged. But some – like, say, Mother’s Day – enter the popular imagination and marketing quick stream; that is, they go viral.

At first glance, it would hardly seem that World Humanitarian Day has such potential. And yet, it has a few things going for it: a kind of inclusiveness, and lack of specificity, and general positive energy, that is hard to argue with. The standard here for promotable nebulous international altruism is “We Are the World”, which, if it did nothing else, redounded to the credit of the music industry.

So who do you recruit when you want to get 1 billion people’s attention? Beyonce, that’s who.


World Humanitarian Day has recruited Beyonce Knowles to be its face and she will release a video of her song “I Was Here”, filmed in the UN general assembly, to mark the day. It is obviously good for Beyonce Knowles if World Humanitarian Day becomes Beyonce’s World Humanitarian Day (rather then Sérgio Vieira de Mello’s).

Next Sunday, 100 million people, representing, in addition to Beyonce’s millions of followers, the followers of, among others, Chris Brown, William Shatner, Piers Morgan, and InStyle magazine will get a message about it being World Humanitarian Day.

A spontaneous version of World Humanitarian Day might be something like the viral Kony 2012 campaign, wherein a group seeking the arrest of Uganda war criminal Joseph Kony made a short film seen by over 100 million people. Advertising methodology tries to take what works organically in the culture and commodify it. Thunderclap offers the possibility of not just, in this instance, helping to encourage humanitarianism, but of bringing some consistency and order to viral marketing.

The possibility that there might actually be such a method or a platform that could lend structure and control to a message and its distribution is what allows Mark Zuckerberg to believe that Facebook will not end up like Yahoo.

So, if, next Sunday, you suddenly find yourself thinking humanitarian thoughts and humming Beyonce’s “I Was Here”, then social media may have been saved … if not human suffering alleviated. If, on the other hand, it passes unnoticed, then the cause that has been advanced here most of all is spam.

The campaign is running in collaboration with award-winning advertising agency Droga5, the UNOCHA’s lead agency for special projects and creator of the Thunderclap technology enabling the mass social broadcast on Sunday 19. Ridley Scott & Associates, Parkwood Entertainment and Sony Music are the other major partners.

“There are few forces for good as extensive and important as the United Nations,” said David Droga, Founder and Creative Chairman, Droga5. “Being able to work with them and other global aid organizations for World Humanitarian Day is a humbling and extraordinary opportunity.”

Here’s how you can take part:

1. Visit and ‘Add Your Voice’ via Twitter, Facebook, or both, and get the word out to your friends and followers to do the same.

2. On August 19th, make your mark by doing something good, somewhere, for someone else. Visit for suggestions of how you can make a difference.

3. Watch as everyone’s messages are simultaneously shared around the world, along with a special World Humanitarian Day performance by Beyoncé (premieres on Sunday).

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