When designing the campaigns with M&C Saatchi World Services and their partner network across Africa, we sought to understand and incorporate the different cultural as well as informational needs of countries and the regions within them.
For example, in Nigeria, we used the slogan ‘Spread the Truth, not the Virus’, as we needed to take into account not just local differences in knowledge, language, religion and local dress, but also what kind of misinformation was being spread.
In Benin, we were told that some religious leaders and herbal healers may be giving out false information they believed to be true. However, as they are one of the pillars of more traditional communities, we understood they could play a vital role in helping us to spread the right information. For instance, in a focus group discussion to ascertain the knowledge, attitudes and practices of the communities against COVID-19 in Benin, a religious leader in Porto-Novo claimed he avoids the virus by drinking ‘Sodabi’, the country’s local liquor, every morning.
The saying ‘Alodokpo non klo ka a’, meaning ‘one hand does not wash the bowl’, was also discussed in these focus groups. This is thought to suggest that the government alone cannot handle COVID-19 so it is important that they utilise local leaders and known healers to support the response.
We also understood the importance of using relevant cultural symbols. In Nigeria, a thermometer to signify fever has no meaning in an area where the population had never seen one. Instead, depicting a person shivering and wrapped in blankets was more culturally appropriate and effective. Also, our communication materials had to depict the right kind of community hand washing stations and one-metre distance examples, so posters instead depicted a bucket tap as opposed to a modern tap, and a tuc tuc (or ‘keke’), as opposed to a shopping trolley.
As well as taking local differences in knowledge, language, religion and local dress into account, there were discussions on how to target different groups, such as young people and women. An example of this approach is a video aimed at young people in Ghana, which was shared on social media: