Suppose you want to run an awareness campaign for, say, methods that prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in a sub-Saharan country. Suppose you want to reach the widest possible audience because most adults are concerned by this issue. Suppose you have a well thought-out campaign message. Which medium do you go for?
We often hear about the importance of mobile technologies for communication in developing countries these days. Indeed, I have on this blog often advocated for mobile and online technologies since they require lower literacy levels than newspapers and may technically be easier to disperse than television sets. But here's something to think about: The Economist published a report on advertising revenues showing that in technologically less advanced markets, "TV simply dwarfs other platforms." In China, 93% of the population watch TV, while less than 30% regularly use the Internet. In Brazil, the advertising volume for television is 15 times as high as the volume for Internet advertising. While many newspaper readers have moved online, the report says, TV users have not only stayed where they were, but actually spend more time in front of the TV than last year. Television is just better able to provide an emotional experience that is more effective at driving home a message.
Mobile ad platforms are good when the budget is tight, says the report. Because some applications and search engines know where you are, your messaging can be targeted more precisely than through television ads. But again, mobile platforms and cell phone videos may just not have the appeal to carry your message. Social media seems to be pretty effective, and here the advantage is that you don't need to pay for a Facebook page on an STD prevention project, you just put one up.
All in all, the report indicates that television will yet enjoy a long and healthy life as advertising and messaging platform all over the world. In developing countries, access makes the Internet a questionable platform for mounting a successful campaign. Mobile devices may have a better reach, but they may not be able to transmit the urgency and appeal of your message effectively. While technology will certainly change and mobile devices will offer more and better applications, television will always be physically bigger. That increases the sensual experience the viewer can have, and it also has the advantage that it brings together whole families and groups of friends - imagine a Sunday afternoon gathering around a cell phone screen. When planning campaigns on development issues, the medium that carries your message needs to be chosen carefully and according to your objectives and audience. And don't disregard television just yet.
Picture: Flickr user autowitch