Rotary sets Guinness Record with ‘World’s Biggest Commercial’ polio eradication awareness campaign


News Release

For immediate release

Contact: Gabriela Simionato Klein, 1-847-866-3239,

More than 100,000 people from 171 countries have posted ‘selfies’ in support of humanitarian group’s ‘End Polio Now’ initiative

EVANSTON, Ill., USA (29 May 2014) — To help raise much-needed funds and public awareness for the global effort to eradicate polio, Rotary has collected more than 100,000 messages of support from celebrities, world leaders, and regular "folks next door," all of whom have added their names and photos to "The World's Biggest Commercial," an ever-growing public service announcement on the End Polio Now website.

And just as it neared the 100,000-participant threshold, The World's Biggest Commercial received Guinness World Record recognition as Largest Photo Awareness Campaign. Guinness looked specifically at the celebrity contingent of campaign supporters, confirming that Rotary had enlisted 177 celebrity participants, more than three times the number of the previous record holder.

Rotary's Polio Eradication Ambassadors include philanthropist Bill Gates; actors Jackie Chan and Archie Panjabi; golf great Jack Nicklaus; Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu; Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan; and music stars Ziggy Marley; Angelique Kidjo, and Psy. In a series of print and video spots, each ambassador makes the "this close" gesture with thumb and forefinger to illustrate the tagline: "We are this close to ending polio."

As Rotary anticipated, the opportunity to rub shoulders – online that is – with such high-profile notables enticed thousands of students, educators, business leaders and others worldwide to add photos of themselves making the "this close" sign to the ever-expanding photo collage video, which is set to music and interspersed with visual messages. The World's Biggest Commercial now clocks in at about three and a half hours. Rotary was aiming for the 100,000-participant mark before the end of the campaign in June 30. With that target reached, Rotary now is determined to add as many more as it can before the sun sets.

"The fact that so many people from so many countries and so many walks of life are taking the time to show their support for our effort to stop this disabling, incurable – but preventable—disease once and for all underscores that this is a true global cause," says Carol Pandak, director of Rotary's PolioPlus program, launched in 1985. "When people understand what is at stake, they want to do something about it. In many countries, the online campaign spurred volunteers to create offline events to inform the general public about polio and what it means to eradicate this disease, as well how close we are to success."

Pandak said the outpouring of support strengthens Rotary's advocacy work to encourage national governments to provide the funding and resources needed to vaccinate the world's children against polio, halting further transmission.  World's Biggest Commercial participants can also contribute directly to Rotary's PolioPlus program by going to

Following Rotary's pioneering work in the mass immunization of children in the late 1970s, proving polio eradication was feasible, the organization in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, joined by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and later, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.   Since then, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to only 416 for all of 2013.

Rotary's main responsibilities within the initiative are fundraising, advocacy, and social mobilization. Through 2018, every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.

More about Rotary

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world's most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. For more information, visit or