African Democratic Institute in South Africa


We were approached by the African Democratic Institute in South Africa to provide an integrated communications solution in support of the African Union Commission’s (AUC) #AfricaAgainstEbola campaign from February to May 2015.

The African Union (AU) was developing its internal programs to respond to health crises in Africa. The AUC initiated preparations for the AU’s support of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) as a contribution to on-going efforts to address the outbreak in the region. We took the challenge to turn a simple campaign idea of raising money to help the plight into a meaningful movement across the borders of African countries; Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, South Africa, as well as throughout the rest of the world.

In order to make an impact in a cause saturated market, we needed to grab the attention of people in a unique way that would cut through the charity fatigue that exists online. Alongside this, attention and assistance had drastically shifted from Ebola to other issues around the world, but the epidemic was far from being beaten.

We favoured a fully integrated approach making use of our digital, creative, content, influencer relations, and traditional media to offer the best possible solution to meet the requirements of the AU’s brief.

Our solution first comprised the development of a 30-second television commercial to tell the African Union’s story and rally a continent to take a stand against Ebola, a disease that devastated the continent for the best part of 2014 by donating $1 to the cause via SMS. The creative concept was based on the question – “What if nobody came?” This told the story of what would happen if there was no more funding to keep the health workers on the ground with the Ebola victims. The television commercial flighted on CNN, Al Jazeera and other channels.

The second campaign element comprised a content-led digital campaign including creative and strategy development as well as community management of the #AfricaAgainstEbola Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn platforms. From a fan base of zero, we built a thriving online community of over 62,000 passionate Africans within two months by favouring a fully integrated approach to digital, creative, content, influencer relations, and traditional media. We started with the insight that people sift through 100s of click bait links a day that reference frivolous topics. Although highly criticized for its sensational nature, click bait is not all negative, as it drives the majority of traffic off of social networks. We took this insight and put it in a context reflective of user behaviours by creating sensational headlines that talked about trivial topics, like a celebrity spotting.

To ensure that the click bait traffic was directed to the correct space, we built a Facebook application dedicated to raising awareness and building support for the cause. Once directed to the app through the click bait users were confronted with a truthful message #YouAreWhatYouShare – a sudden realization that there were more important issues in the world being ignored. The app presented three calls to action: Take the pledge and join the movement, donate one dollar to keep a health worker on the ground, or share this campaign. All three actions served to complete our objectives and raise awareness for African Against Ebola.

Clickbait Image

Those who chose to join the movement would have their name pulled from their Facebook profile and added to a wall of supporters. When the campaign was shared, new click bait was randomly generated and shared on Facebook to continue the cycle of shocking content, leading to a new level of engagement – an online viral effect.

Those that donated to the cause were redirected from the app to the AU website with a safe payment portal. The click bait generator, in conjunction with strategic hyper targeting, African influencers, social behavioural insights, and varied options of support, allowed us to achieve our goals in supporting the fight against Ebola through reminding the world that Africa had a big role to play in keeping health workers on the ground to assist the infected. The app also led to our team building a direct relationship with Facebook, as they were brought on as a media partner in February 2015.

Another element of the #AfricaAgainstEbola Campaign consisted of an influencer campaign whereby key individuals in Africa including Presidents, celebrities & sports stars were identified and encouraged to get behind the message of the campaign by showing their support through a short video pledge for the #AfricaAgainstEbola initiative. The campaign attracted the likes of President Jacob Zuma, Dikembe Mutombo and Akim Hakeem, both professional basketball players in the NBA, Kolo Touré, Liverpool defender, and Davido, award winning recording artist and record producer in Nigeria.

The third and final element consists of traditional media relations across Africa, Europe and the US. Led by the FleishmanHillard South African office, the traditional element focused on the positioning of the AU as a transparent and action-orientated body that is leading the fight against Ebola by way of thought leadership, ambassador and business partner profiling and health worker précises, to name but a few tactics.

The digital component was extremely successful and received over 500,000 app clicks over the period of two months. 1000s of pledges contributed to the $34 million raised up until April 2015. The campaign received over 1.5 million impressions across social networks, and helped build a direct relationship with Facebook, bringing them on as a media partner for the campaign in early February 2015.

The traditional media relations campaign generated coverage in tier 1 media across the three markets. Increasing awareness about the devastation wreaked by the disease in the three affected countries, contributed to the fund-raising efforts aimed at deploying more health workers. Profiling of the AUC Chair and key medical experts reinforced the preventative measures needed to be undertaken in the affected countries as the story progressed to post-epidemic, socio economic development. In addition, the AUC deployed 1 000 healthcare workers to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

The African Democratic Institute was responsible for negotiating the free flighting of the television commercial across various regional and global channels.