Learn what tools your target audience already has, what media they already enjoy receiving, the messengers they trust, and then figure out a way to use old media in new ways. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Remix it.
For instance, in 2013 we were approached by members of the Black Monday movement in Uganda, which sought to raise awareness about government corruption. Whenever they tried to hand out pamphlets on the street, they were arrested. We scoped media outlets and co-created a new outlet for them. “Matatu” minibuses are the primary public transportation in Uganda; in the capital they gather at a couple of central taxiparks that fan out to all corners of the metro area. We decided that this central distribution point could serve as an unconventional spot for last mile media. When talking to matatu drivers, we found that because the taxis were old, they almost all still had old-fashioned audiotape decks, but cassette tapes of contemporary music did not exist. We worked with the Black Monday Movement to create an audiotape format that packaged popular music with short informational segments on corruption and the Black Monday Movement. One Monday morning, instead of getting arrested trying to hand out a few flyers, unlabeled black tapes appeared in all the minibuses in the capital. The “Black Monday Mixtape” went out to more than 1000 matatus that week, reaching a much broader audience than their flyers could have done and with no arrests.
In another example, an organization approached us that was trying to show “farmer to farmer” videos to improve agricultural techniques in remote, off-grid villages. They were using “mobile cinema” kits (generator, projector, screens, large speakers, etc.) to show the films, but women had difficulty attending the screenings. The projectors they were using needed darkness, but women didn’t feel safe traveling at night to a screening and weren’t comfortable sitting in crowded, darkened rooms during the day. We began by asking ourselves: how are these challenges (sun, public spaces, remote, off-grid) actually opportunities?
What emerged was a tool that we called “Village Video” or ViVi (Fig. 20.2). It is a solar-powered microcinema in a suitcase that combines a low power TV screen, speakers, and public address system. Able to be packed up and transported on the back of a motorbike or in the flatbed of a truck, it was more durable, more affordable, and more transportable than the microcinema our partners were using before. Importantly, ViVi works best when it is pulled out in weekly markets or other settings where women and families gather in public during daylight hours. With no other entertainment to compete with, ViVi could roll in and steal the show at these gatherings, attracting large crowds with its novelty. When our partners went to the field, they immediately saw female attendance double from when they were using traditional mobile cinema tools.
Our upcoming project hacks a format rather than a medium. All across Sub-Saharan Africa, imported telenovelas from countries in Latin America and Asia fill the airwaves. Why? The shows are inexpensive for TV stations to acquire and audiences like them. As one television executive explained to us, audiences are drawn to stories of “love and wealth.” We didn’t have millions of dollars to produce our own pro-social EE telenovela, but we saw an opportunity in the existing media landscape. We bought the rights to a Venezuelan telenovela, and “hacked” or “remixed” it by re-scripting, re-dubbing, and re-cutting it into an entirely different show that focuses on messaging around sexual and reproductive health, contraception, and female empowerment. The title, inspired by that network executive’s insight, is Love and Wealth, and it is scheduled to launch across Africa in early 2021.