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Advertisers want new comms strategy to fight new COVID-19 wave

The Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG) has called for fresh ideas and a new communication strategy to effectively get the message across to the public, in order to curb the new wave of COVID-19 infections currently sweeping across the country.

The association has described as “unfortunate” the “generic communication style” adopted by the two foremost government institutions in the fight against COVID-19 – the Ministries of Health (MOH) and Information (MOI) – and believe existing strategies contribute to the rising cases, as the messages are not getting to the people.

Executive Director of the AAG, Francis Dadzie, noted that the nation could have achieved better results which would have led to a high level of compliance if it had roped-in the private sector to research all target groups – and devised specific messages for each that would push for action and ensure a sustained break in spread of the virus.

The AAG, he added, is also amazed at how in some instances the COVID-19 safety and prevention protocols prepared by government are jammed on posters, making it difficult to comprehend easily. It believes that this is a major reason the nation is currently battling another wave of infection, which has been noted to be deadlier than the first two waves experienced last year.

“I blame the Ministry of Health for the kind of communication they put out there. We have been in this country even from General Kutu Acheampong’s time – when government was changing from left to right and all that; you use private sector advertisement marketing communications companies which have the research and minds of the consumers to develop the communication strategies needed for change.

“When it comes to COVID-19, which is the greatest of all these things, then you silence all these people and throw out communication that is generic. The human mind and/or audience have become sophisticated, and there are different living standard measurements that they fall within. You cannot create a generic message and think that it will affect everyone. If you do so, it will be difficult to convince those who believe the virus does not even exist.

“We should have gone down to do a level of research among the market women, drivers, people out in the villages, to get some baseline data on their thinking; and then you strategise the communication that will suit them,” he said.

It has become abundantly clear from the economic indices that a lockdown by government would be cutting its own throat – and those of Ghanaians – considering the dire implications for the economy. Many have advised government to push a lot of effort into sensitisation to engender compliance with the COVID-19 protocols, as it is one of the best means to cut the fast rate of infection being recorded in the third wave – which has seen all 16 regions record active cases.

But even before a decision is taken on this, the Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG) is advising government to set up a comprehensive committee, comprising the public and private sector, to deal with the matter of communication all over again.

“We are just appealing to government; they have done well, but it seems complacency and laxity have set in. We think that everyone’s involvement is needed: private communication and advertisement agencies should be engaged to help strategise communication.

“We have already drafted something and sent it to the Information Ministry as a sign of goodwill in helping the state deal with COVID-19. Communication is one of the biggest and cheapest forums we have currently, and we can use it effectively to change the attitudes of people. We have to get everyone on board and get it right this time.”

Source: The Business and Financial Times

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