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Analysis of communications campaigns in Afghanistan

Since the 2001 invasion, the people of Afghanistan have been exposed to many strategic communications campaigns, most of which were funded by international organisations, militaries or other countries. These campaigns and the research conducted in Afghanistan since 2001 have been directed towards the significant challenges the country faces – security, development, capacity building and reducing emigration. We analysed campaigns on migration, violence against women, health, child protection, security, drugs and elections.

Due to increasing donor interest in the topic, Seefar used its unique position in the Afghanistan communications space to conduct an analysis of current and previous campaigns. The aim was to understand what has and has not been effective and why.

We found that none of the campaigns examined had publicly available information on their impact. Where evaluations were undertaken, they almost always either measure reach and outputs, or used anecdotal information, rather than evaluating based on impact and outcomes against objectives.

Seefar is publishing some key findings to help donors design and then evaluate better campaigns. Donors can contact us for further advice.

Some key findings from the analysis were:

  1. Access to the internet is growing rapidly in Afghanistan, however this is mostly through mobile phone plans that only allow access to a limited number of social media sites.
  2. Access to TV is increasing and is in addition to ongoing radio popularity.
  3. Media viewership and listenership statistics are either unreliable or absent in Afghanistan.
  4. Media consumption habits in Afghanistan are expected to evolve as the young population continues to access new technologies such as the internet and social media.
  5. Inflows of hundreds of thousands of returnees from Pakistan will likely have different media consumption habits to those who never left Afghanistan, and these are not currently understood.
  6. The perception that campaigns are difficult and expensive to evaluate has led to many campaigns not being evaluated. Where evaluations are conducted, conclusions on effectiveness are usually based on reach and output tracking or anecdotal ‘evidence’, not impact and outcomes.
  7. Using multiple, complementary channels in a campaign increases reach, message recognition and reduces room for misinterpretation.
  8. Messages need to take account of cultural and other contextual issues in order to be effective.
  9. Oral and visual storytelling methods are important in Afghanistan where literacy is low and opportunities for entertainment are low.
  10. If using mass media content in a campaign, such as radio dramas, talk shows or airing documentaries, it is critical that they are promoted properly in the lead up to their broadcast.
  11. Unidirectional static messaging, such as billboards, flyers and posters have low impact in Afghanistan because the messages are not engaging. This type of product is also costly to produce and cannot be changed once created.
  12. Campaigns that provide factual information appear to have a higher degree of impact.
  13. Using national TV stations is unlikely to be cost effective if the target audience is confined to a smaller geographical location.
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Afghanistan Research and surveys South and Central Asia Strategic communications
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