Press Release

Dr. Jill Biden Joins USAID and Ad Council to Debut FWD Campaign for the Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Campaign featuring Uma Thurman, Geena Davis, Josh Hartnett and Chanel Iman premieres at the White House

NEW YORK and WASHINGTON, October 26, 2011 — In response to the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is joining the Ad Council to launch a national public awareness campaign. The campaign encourages Americans to spread awareness of the crisis, support the humanitarian organizations conducting the relief operations, and learn more about the solutions through President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative. The campaign is titled FWD, or famine, war and drought, which is an acronym for the three crises affecting the Horn. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah is unveiling the campaign at the White House this afternoon during a live-streamed roundtable discussion.

Across the eastern Horn of Africa, more than 13 million people–a number greater than the populations of Los Angeles and New York City combined–are now in need of emergency assistance to survive. The crisis is the most severe humanitarian emergency in the world today, and the worst that East Africa has seen in six decades. Crops have failed, livestock have died, and high prices in local markets prevent many people from buying what is needed to feed their families. Millions of people are affected in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and in Somalia where tens of thousands of people have died as a result of the crisis.

“During my time at the refugee camp in Dadaab, I met with families who had walked for days or weeks, often barefoot, with no possessions, desperate to find food and medical care,” said Dr. Jill Biden. “I heard stories of loss and devastation that no family should ever have to face. But I also saw first-hand that even the smallest and simplest investments can save lives.”

However, there is hope. Through the Feed the Future initiative, the United States Government is addressing the root causes of chronic hunger by helping foster better farming, stronger markets, and greater resilience to climate shocks.

“We know that these types of crises don’t need to happen. Through Feed the Future, we are working to end hunger around the world,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. “By partnering with governments, the private sector and smallholder farmers, we can help nations build resilient agricultural sectors and break the devastating cycle of food riots, famine and failed states.”

Despite the magnitude of the crisis, according to a national survey released today by the Ad Council, conducted online by Harris Interactive among 2,226 U.S. adults aged 18 and older in September 2011, over half (52 percent) of the general public say that they have not seen, heard, or read anything about the drought and famine occurring in the Horn of Africa.

The Ad Council and volunteer advertising agency R/GA have developed the multimedia campaign, which encourages all Americans to donate to the relief efforts and also spread the word or “FWD” the critical message to their friends to encourage their support.

The campaign directs audiences to text GIVE to 777444 to donate $10 to a consortium of humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa, comprised of American Refugee Committee, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, World Vision, and World Food Program USA. Audiences are also directed to visit to find more information about the crisis and a listing of U.S.-funded humanitarian organizations working in the Horn of Africa that are accepting donations to aid in disaster relief.

“We are proud to join USAID and all of our generous corporate and media supporters to debut this critical campaign, which will encourage all Americans to support the relief efforts and ‘FWD’ the message on to help spread the word,” said Peggy Conlon, president & CEO of the Ad Council. “The American people have a history of responding in times of global crisis and I believe once we can get this on their radar, they will understand the gravity of the crisis and provide their support.”

The television and web ads feature Dr. Jill Biden and actors Uma Thurman, Josh Hartnett, Geena Davis and Chanel Iman. The campaign will also be engaging high-profile athletes such as Lance Armstrong and writer and television host Anthony Bourdain. In addition to the traditional ads, the campaign includes an extensive social media program via USAID’s Facebook and Twitter channels, as well as blogs and other sites.

Furthermore, the campaign engages corporate, media, and non-governmental organizations to help engage the American public, including General Mills and PepsiCo. General Mills has agreed to match the first 2,000 text donations that come through the FWD campaign. Additionally, several media partners have committed to support the campaign in both donated media and social media, including AOL, Facebook, Google,, Sugar, Inc., Twitter, Verizon and Yahoo!

"When the Ad Council made us aware of this initiative, we knew we needed to help in any way possible. The amount of people suffering in the Horn of Africa is staggering and the need is immediate. We had two challenges — help people understand what is a complicated crisis, and then, since it’s getting lost in the news cycle, have them spread the word to their own networks. The brand we designed says it all: FWD explains the problem (famine, war and drought), and describes the action (forward the facts). We’ve had great support from celebrities who are helping us get the message out in videos and by forwarding the facts to their own substantial social networks," said Nick Law, chief creative officer, North America, R/GA.

The Ad Council is distributing the PSAs to media outlets nationwide this week. Per the Ad Council’s model, all of the PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

The “Open for Questions” live-streamed event is taking place today at 12:30 p.m. EDT with Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council, and Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement. Watch live on or Ask questions on the USAID Facebook page or on the White House Facebook page. On Twitter, send questions to @RajShah or @USAID, or ask questions live using the hashtag #AskFWD.

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years. The United States is the largest bilateral donor of emergency assistance to the eastern Horn of Africa. To learn more about U.S. assistance and how to help, visit

The Ad Council,, is a private, non-profit organization with a rich history of marshalling volunteer efforts from the advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public.

R/GA is a full-service agency that transforms the way people interact with brands. A commitment to design, technology, strategy, and innovation defines R/GA’s legacy as an iconoclast in the world of communications and marketing. With a range of holistic offerings that include brand development, mobile, and retail, R/GA’s agency model is adaptable to the ever-changing needs of consumers in the digital landscape.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive via its QuickQuery omnibus product on behalf of the Ad Council from September 27-29, 2011 among 2,226 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Tony Foleno at [email protected]

Matthew Johnson
[email protected]

Ellyn Fisher
The Ad Council
[email protected]

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