SCC’s Rotary Club spot is ‘world’s biggest commercial’

A participant in the SCC “This Close” campaign

The world’s biggest commercial, produced by Schafer Condon Carter for Rotary Club International, featuring 120,000 on-camera images from every corner of the earth and running for 8 to 10 hours, has a more important claim to fame. 

It is the impending triumph in a battle against polio that Rotary has waged since 1985.   

“You have to go across the globe and inoculate child-by-child by child for 30 years,” says SCC executive creative director Denny Hebson.

“It started with like 90 countries and now polio is in only three – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” he continues, forming a now universally recognized hand gesture with his thumb and forefinger that SCC conceived for the campaign. “We are ‘this close’ to ending polio.”

Rotary’s online campaign is also in the Guinness Book of World Records for containing the greatest number of distinct, consecutive, separate images ever edited into a single spot. 

The cSCC's Denny Hebson and Veronica Stumpampaign enlisted support from the likes of Bill Gates, Desmond Tutu and Jane Goodall in its attempt to accomplish a feat that has only occurred one other time in history, when the world got rid of small pox. 

SCC became Rotary’s pro bono agency in 2008, in support of Hebson’s involvement with Rotary activities. The agency created the “This Close” theme for a series of print ads and 60-second online spots, each featuring a person displaying the thumb and a forefinger almost touching to indicate how close the world had come to a polio-free future.

The campaign attracted some 140 celebrities

Initially, the campaign was designed to feature “just a couple celebrities,” explains SCC managing partner Mike Grossman. But before long, “It grew and it grew and it grew to include “about 140.”

When Rotary asked the agency to get non-celebrities involved, SCC created an application that allows users to upload pictures of themselves making the “this close” gesture to a server in their West Loop offices.

Upon approval, the images would be added to the commercial, which ultimately included 119,350 people from 173 different countries.

Ina Pinkney“The app renders title cards explaining the process in eight languages,” says account director Veronica Stump. “It notifies people when they’ve been approved. It allows them to see where they might be and which countries got into it the most. Our web guys put it together from scratch. They did a really great job.”

The agency and Rotary held a wrap party, so to speak, “as a great way to celebrate a successful partnership,” says Grossman. One of their guests was “Breakfast Queen” Ina Pinkney, the recently retired owner of Ina’s restaurant, who is a polio survivor of 30 years. 

“She was determined not to be crippled by the disease and mastered it. Her indomitable spirit was an inspiration to all of us.”