Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Proposal

DH, I really like your suggestion for a poster campaign. Having a picture of a father carrying his dead child may be problematic for a couple of reasons here though. First, I think it would offend the sensitivity of those who have lost children to the disease. In Tanah Karo, I could see those posters potentially exacerbating resentments. I agree the message has to clearly demonstrate what's at stake, though. And I would suspect that the messages from the U.N. are going to err on the side of square and bland. I hope not, but their role is already so cautious that I don't imagine they'll take many marketing risks.

The campaign to get people to report outbreaks via SMS is really smart. Cell phones are as ubiquitous as backyard chickens here.

I was brainstorming with my girlfriend a couple of days ago about the media campaign.

We thought there must be a way to take advantage of the widespread animist beliefs and myths without offending the local culture.

Certainly it would be inappropriate to actually try to convince people that sick or dying chickens are possessed by demons or haunted by spirits. But you can bet if that were the case, children would stay away.

So there's this television phenomenon here called Sinetron. It's a huge industry of cheesy action soap operas that often include sorcerers and (badly animated) giant snakes and often end with traditional Muslim morality messages. They're widely popular, but they're not taken too seriously.

We would like to see a Sinetron version of a PSA for bird flu. I think it would get people's attention.

Perhaps some children are wandering in the village, and they see a sick bird. One reaches out to touch it, but a giant ghost zombie scorpion rises out of it, and
traps the children with its tail. It breathes green fire that's full of angry monkeys. The children scream for help. A band of villagers rush out with torches, but can't manage to kill the beast. Then a magic Islamic elder emerges, and conjures a Javanese warrior. He drives the scorpion away with his flaming kris and martial arts skills (and maybe some soap and water).

Then a short message about why we don't touch sick chickens, and how we wash our hands around birds. The bird flu monster must be defeated. Only you can help.