unicef-soja

Raising awareness of humanitarian issues through music videos – UNICEF

UNICEF’s recent music video series designed to raise awareness of children’s rights has undoubtedly reached an audience who were possibly oblivious to some of the suffering  portrayed in these powerful films. To date the videos have been viewed by over 300,000 people and earlier this week the final video in the series was released featuring SOJA.

The production of this series over the last two years has taken an immense amount of planning. I contacted Nicholas Ledner, Digital Knowledge Coordinator at UNICEF to find out more about the creative process behind the videos.

This series of music videos must have taken a lot of planning. What were the most important factors in its success?

The most important aspect of this work is selecting the specific child rights issue – whether its access to education, ending violence or improving water and sanitation– to highlight in the music video. We do this by working closely with our colleagues in the country office to identify an issue UNICEF is advocating for locally.  For example, in the Chad RL Grime video we focused on child marriage because Chad has the third highest child marriage rate in the world, while the Ethiopia video focused on education as many children in rural Ethiopia are out of school.

You also need to ensure you identify an artist that has a significant fan base, that’s critically praised, that is smart, intelligent, passionate and understands your work. This is essential for success and for a mutually beneficial relationship.  The team the artist works with is also very important.  You need to know they’re willing to help you seed the content with different outlets.

I know that seeding is vital in these campaigns. Can you tell me a bit more about the process of seeding.

It is amazing to watch how some videos achieve traction or the snowball effect.  We always try to ensure that our media team is in sync with the artists’ publicity team and normally the publicity team is excellent at getting the core message of the video to external audiences – at least to relevant music media.  A press release at their end also helps.

Take the ODESZA video as an example. Their team posted something on their website and across social media, which resulted in an excellent article on thissongissick- (large music blog), whose Facebook Page has more than a quarter of million fans, all enthusiastic about music and great new collaborations.

On top of all this, we’re promoting videos strongly now on Facebook and YouTube, which means the number of views is split between the two platforms.  For some of our most successful videos, a lot of the views stem from the fact they are being hosted on external media outlet websites (earned media) such as Huffington Post, UpworthyAPlus , etc. which all link back to the Youtube version of the video on our UNICEF channel (and not the Facebook Page).

For instance, the average view time for the Chad Child Marriage video which featured a track by RL Grime is 2:56 seconds (76% of the video), which is tremendous and can perhaps be linked back to the fact that engaged audiences are viewing this video from a player on a website they trust, rather than stumbling upon the video from a link they clicked.

How important was the relationship with the country offices to the production?

Working closely with colleagues in our various country offices is essential to the success of these videos. It’s the country offices who have the most knowledge and understanding on the issues affecting children in their countries. They also can localize the videos so they are relevant for their audiences.

For instance, when we worked with the UNICEF office in Tanzania to create the Four Tet video on child protection issues, our colleagues in Tanzania included their local goodwill ambassador into the video as the mother character.  They also included a prominent musician from the region as the father.  Colleagues in our country offices are also very good at utilizing the video for important advocacy purposes.  For instance, after the video with Moderat in Paraguay was created, the government officially recognized UNICEF’s #ENDviolence campaign. Another example is that the First Lady of Chad showed the RL Grime child marriage video to Heads of State and their spouses at the recent AU Summit in Addis Ababa this past January to support the AU’s #ENDChildMarriage campaign.

How are production teams selected?

Aside from the Chad and Namibia videos, all other videos were shot by local production companies.  Rooftop Productions is amazing and created the RL Grime, BANKS, and ODESZA videos.

We normally go through every possible production company before deciding. It’s a balance between quality of work and who will give us the best deal. All of the artists provided free licences to use their music.

Who has the responsibility for the storyboarding?

We have a storyboard for every video created. We tend to start the process as a team and then we have a few rounds of revisions based on feedback from both communications colleagues and the different program teams that are involved. There are so many talented colleagues in UNICEF who contribute to the creative process.

How long did it take to make each of these films?

It takes approximately 3 months to create one of these videos.  Ensuring you identify the best time to launch the video is also important in reaching the most people with these important messages about children’s rights.

For instance we starting shooting the ODESZA video in late October because we wanted to launch it on World AIDS Day, December 1st.

Why did UNICEF decide to focus on making music related videos?

Music resonates globally and has helped us provoke conversations around key issues UNICEF advocates for. Music can often touch people in ways other media cannot. It makes them think about their own lives and helps them relate to others because they feel something in the music which is sometimes harder to convey to a general audience.

When you can see your product being talked about on the largest social media networks in the world, then you know something went right and you can celebrate the idea that at first was only a glimmer in an eye. It’s a complicated but enjoyable process which I love supporting and bringing to life because I myself love the videos, grew up loving music (and still do) and I’m able to bring my passion and expertise together with these sorts of campaigns.

I’ve also heard from up and coming artists that they love these kinds of collaborations as it gives them a chance to give back and be a part of something both cool and educational.  It’s a special process, for sure, and something that lights up my work.  I’m sure these videos will be watched and shared for many years to come.

 

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RL Grime

UNICEF collaborate with RL Grime to raise awareness of children’s rights

UNICEF has partnered with trap and bass DJ/producer, RL Grime to produce a harrowing video about child marriage in Chad. The music style video, called #ENDChildMarriageNow, features RL Grime’s song “Always” from his first full-length album Void.

The film starts with a girl dying from child birth and is then shot in reverse until later in the video where it starts to play forward but with a different scenario where the girl gets an education her life changes positively. I actually found the sequence of the story quite difficult to decipher on first viewing. Maybe this is a deliberate strategy? I certainly wanted to watch it again to fully understand the narrative . I have not seen an NGO attempt a music video style like this before, especially using a popular dance artist.

Melanie Sharpe from UNICEF commented “This collaboration is part of a two year long UNICEF series that uses music to tell the stories of important issues affecting children around the world – issues like child marriage, HIV/AIDS and ending violence against children.  As a very influential figure in electronic music today UNICEF approached RL Grime to collaborate on this video and amplify the message that child marriage must end.”

UNICEF has also collaborated on music videos with BANKS, Moderat, Four Tet, Hauschka, Nils Frahm, IAMNOBODI, and ODESZA. By teaming up with RL Grime and these other artists UNICEF’s aim was to raise awareness and provoke conversations about children’s rights issues among young, socially engaged online audiences around the world. These videos have resulted in almost a quarter of a million views via the UNICEF YouTube channel.

Ms Sharpe commented “The RL Grime video was created to show the painful realities behind child marriage – violence, abuse, social isolation and limited education – but also to create a sense of hope that child marriage is not inevitable, ending the harmful practise can be done.

The video was filmed in Moundou, southern Chad, which is located about 400 kilometres south of the capital city, N´Djamena. The people in the video are actors from the Altonodji theater club in Moundou. Chad was chosen to highlight this issue because it has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world. Chad ranks third in child marriage rates, with 68% of girls married as children – and, unlike many other countries, the practice is prevalent in both wealthy and less wealthy households.”

In addition to the video being used to raise awareness, it was also used to support the African Union’s #ENDChildMarriageNOW campaign. The First Lady of Chad herself presented the video to African heads of state and their spouses at a side event on child marriage during the 24th Summit of the African Union on 30th January in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

I really like the video, and it’s quite unique for an NGO. I’ve seen music spoofs, lipdubs and the use of powerful soundtracks used by NGOs, but NOT a music video style film. I’d love to know why did the filmmaker chose to tell the story in reverse. It reminds me of Sliding Doors, but also of the horrific but acclaimed film Irreversible which is totally shot in reverse and features a brutal rape scene which is unbearable to watch.

In my next blog I will interview Nicholas Ledner, Digital Knowledge Coordinator from UNICEF’s headquarters in New York to discuss some the creative process in this beautiful but disturbing series of videos.

 

 

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A new genre of NGO videos?

Redd Barna (Save the Children Norway) released a video earlier this week as part of their #BirthofInvoice campaign. The video spoof shows the pilot of a new “birth meter” which is being installed in Harstad Hospital in Norway. The film includes a project manager for a project called “Cost control in maternity care.” which has been designed to streamline the work of midwives. The meter efficiently records all the requirements of a birth such as nitrous oxide, epidurals and consent. At the end of the process the baby is then tagged with a barcode so that the costs can be quickly calculated and a bill provided for the new parents.

The midwives in the video did not know anything about the film, whereas the instructor and the woman in the bed are actors. Lisa Brodshaug, Campaign Advisor at Save the Children said “We contacted the management of the hospital to ask permission to film the spoof. The midwives were told to attend a training for a new tool to help them in their daily work. Their reactions appear when they realize this birth meter is designed to print an invoice in the end, for the mother to carry with the baby out of the hospital. We chose to use a hidden camera to capture their natural reactions when exposed to the birth meter. We assumed that the midwives’ instinct would be activated, and we were right. They told us afterwards that they were furious during the session and most of all wanted to slap the instructor across his face. Interesting then, to see how controlled they are when communicating their objections.”

The video which films the reaction of real midwives in Norway reminds me slightly of the annoying but very popular prank show, Beadles About. There have been quite a few videos produced in the last few years which either use spoofs e.g. Africa for Norway or a strategy of “it’s not happening here yet…..”, which also reminds me of the very clever outdoor advertising campaign from Amnesty International a few years ago.

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It seems as this type of communication style is very effective. The Save the Children UK video Most Shocking Second a Day now has over 45 million views. At the end of the #BirthofInvoice video there is the opportunity to use an online tool to see what the cost would have been for the birth of your existing children. This ‘birth invoice can be shared via social media. Lisa Brodshaug commented “Numbers show that we hit the nail with our suggested action for showing support; to make people share their own birth invoice with an estimated amount according to their number of births. This has generated even more traffic on our sites and tells us that people need to relate and personalize the information in order to take action.”

The video has been produced to alert people to the kind of processes that go on in many countries. In Norway, like the UK, health care from qualified professionals during pregnancy and birth is free, whereas in other countries women have to pay for vital health care. Those who cannot afford to pay often give birth at home without professional help and risk both their own lives and the lives of their baby. As part of this campaign, Save the Children aim to increase awareness of this problem and advocate for free healthcare across the world as part of the new Sustainable Development Goals.

It seems the campaign is working!

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Oxfam explain growing inequality in a social media mash-up

Oxfam have recently released a video highlighting the ever growing inequality in the world. The video tells the story of inequality through an online conversation between two friends using Facebook Messenger, status updates and and Skype video chat. The conversation starts off talking about one of their Dad’s being like a grumpy cat, and then there is a news announcement that according to Oxfam “the combined wealth of the world’s 85 richest people is equal to the 3.5 billion poorest.” One of the friends jokes about the Dad being one of the 85 richest. It then turns quite upbeat with one of the friends receiving a scholarship to attend a top school. The music turns sad and one of the girls explains that their father is having to move his factory abroad due to tax reasons. Things go from worse to worse and the father is killed in a mining accident.

The video then jumps to a quick succession of authentic news items from Al Jazeera, France 24, PTV Philippines etc announcing that inequality has reached an all time high and the richest 1% in the world will own more than the rest of 99% of the population by 2016.

To date the video has been watched by just over 6,000 people and has 31 likes. It’s different from most of the other charity videos I’ve watched in recent years, but I’m not sure how effective it is. A ‘like’ for every 200 views is fairly impressive, but obviously people aren’t sharing it that much in their networks or it would have had more views. I wonder why they chose to use this social media / news reporting mash-up style. Maybe they are educating a future group of latent activists? Or perhaps they just want more teenagers to sign their petition to take action against inequality?

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Social Media Lounge – Uganda

Today is the launch of the Social Media Lounge in Uganda, a place where enthusiasts can write and discuss freely and regularly about social media and its ever changing dynamics. The lounge is intended be a place to share and build a community together, a place where it will be possible to teach, to learn from each other, to mentor and also to create a singular point of focus for the social media conversation in Uganda going forward.

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Collins Mugume one of the co-founders of the lounge said “We want to create a space where social media could be owned and grown in Uganda. To create a place to grow social media authorities who could become the pillars on which the industry could rely on, to guide and shape its growth.”

Colin Asimwe, co-founder added “Eventually, we are looking at getting to a place where social media is respected as a viable channel and an integral part of the communication mix instead of an esoteric amorphous black-hole into which clients and brands throw money and hope – merely hope, for a few likes and some interaction. When there is a market understanding of the social media landscape, an adequate growth in the resource pool and we can effectively measure it and can make predictions on trends – I think we will consider ourselves successful.”

I asked Collins, why they had decided to call in a lounge. “Despite what most people believe social media is first of all social; driven by interactions, human nature and conversations. It is as close to human conversations can get without physical presence. Lounges are a place of recline; people come there to relax from their troubled and beleagured lives. But also to regroup, replenish energies and and re-strategise. The lounge will be such place taking the industry’s best and making to tackle the challenges that will take Social to the next level.

What can members do?
Members can contribute to the social media conversation in Uganda by writing articles, insights, reviews and opinions on the landscape. They can be a part of formalising the social media agenda in Uganda by creating the environment which eventually will raise the standard of social media practice in Uganda.

The contributing community members so far include;

1. Maureen Agena
2. Bernard Olupot
3. Sam Agona
4. Grace Natabaalo
5. Onyait Odeke
6. Tusiime Samson
7. Patricia Kahill
8. Eunice Gnay Namirembe
9. Brain Kyeyune
10. Mujuni Raymond
11. Allan Ssenyonga
12. Olive Nakiyemba

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