Kobana walks into the kitchen and throws down his keys. His wife Asha is nervously chopping vegetables for their dinner. Should she tell him what’s on her mind? Asha takes the plunge: “I’ve been to the doctor’s today Kobana…”
This opening sequence from an episode of ‘Kobana’s Stories’ sets the scene for yet another difficult situation for Kobana, the fictional character at the centre of a ‘mini-soap opera’ made by Andrassy Media as part of an innovative social marketing campaign.
Commissioned by Department of Health to support African Health Policy Network (AHPN) in its work with African communities, the Do It Right campaign was developed by Andrassy Media to get across HIV prevention messages to African men living in England.
Do It Right was social marketing at its best, using different channels and tactics to engage communities, generate debate and create an atmosphere where behaviour change can take root.
As well as print and online media, a national programme of community outreach delivered by AHPN sought to challenge some of the social attitudes in African communities, particularly among men, which lead to unsafe sexual behaviour.
Kobana’s Stories were written by Maurice Cunningham, an HIV trainer and facilitator with a talent for storytelling, who often used role play in his sessions. Originally intended as picture stories, Andrassy Media spotted their potential for translation into film. Working closely with Maurice, Andrassy Media turned the concept into a series of short films which became the flagship content at the core of the campaign.
In the films, the hapless Kobana (played by Maurice himself) seems incapable of ‘doing it right’ as his contradictory attitudes to family and sexual partners repeatedly get him into arguments with those around him.
Distributed online and shown in community meetings as a stimulus for discussion, Kobana’s Stories proved a highly effective way of raising the profile of the debate. Audiences were drawn to the Kobana character whom they felt to be infuriating, reprehensible, but above all believable.
Many wanted to see more of Kobana; over a year after the campaign had ended Andrassy Media was still receiving community requests and suggestions for future storylines.
Kobana’s Stories sat within a wider campaign brand that took its cue from an unexpected source – road signs.
Britain’s road signage system is both authoritative and (at least for a newcomer to the country) highly visible, both factors which gave the campaign brand extra leverage.
Linking the campaign to something as objective and rational as road signs gave the campaign message credibility, while the fact that signs tell rather than ask, allowed the use of the imperative without losing the sense that its audience must make their own choices.The Do It Right campaign brand was based on the British road signage system