Sitcoms+SMS: Tackling HIV/AIDS in the DRC

In this, the first of a series of guest posts on how FrontlineSMS is being used around the world, Becky McLaughlin – Marketing Director at Rien que la Vérité – talks about their current use of the platform, and the impact it has had on their work

“Based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rien que la Vérité was born in 2006 when some of the finest musicians in the Congo united to produce a CD of songs speaking against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Since 2006, the Rien que la Vérité platform has produced 14 music videos, a documentary, and an all-day stadium concert. In its present incarnation, Rien que la Vérité is touching the lives of the people of the Congo through their television screens as they follow the lives of a Kinois family on a locally-produced TV drama.


Rien que la Vérité – the TV series – launched nationally on November 30th, 2008 and first implemented FrontlineSMS in the airing of its second episode on December 14th. Each episode broadcast is accompanied by short talk-show segments during which a host introduces music clips, talks to well-known musicians and actors, and interviews representatives from local NGOs and organizations whose message dovetails with a theme introduced in the show.

During the December 14th show, the audience was invited to participate by sending an SMS with the name of their favorite character. The responses were collected using FrontlineSMS. This simple first step allowed Rien que la Vérité to test the software and to begin an exploration of our audience’s perceptions and preferences. As the show continues we plan to introduce more simple polls that will help tailor the show to the audience’s tastes, and give viewers a sense of ownership of the program.


This, however, is the most basic use we foresee. We are now launching a drive to support fan clubs, so that people who watch the show can find each other, meet, and talk about the show and the topics it introduces – a process that will begin to normalize conversation about HIV/AIDS. We’ll use FrontlineSMS to collect contact information from interested fans, then broadcast messages with times and locations for local club gatherings. We also intend to use FrontlineSMS in our research for measuring the impact the show has on our target audience. We’ll send out questions via SMS to fans before and after each show, measuring any changes in attitude, knowledge, or self-reported practices due to exposure to the show’s messaging.

FrontlineSMS will be a critical tool in our goal to entertain and educate. Like its television format, Rien que la Vérité’s future development must remain grassroots, and FrontlineSMS is an excellent vehicle for this.”

Becky McLaughlin
Marketing Director
Rien que la Vérité

98 thoughts on “Sitcoms+SMS: Tackling HIV/AIDS in the DRC

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  35. Heather Morris says:

    At last – SMS marketing for a better world! Wonderful to see such intelligent use of this medium for raising awareness and bringing about community solidarity on such sensitive issues. Keep up the great work Rien que la Vérité!!

  36. Becky McLaughlin says:

    Hi Heather,
    Thanks for your kind words, it is lovely to receive them. We are of course very excited about our project. Given that it is in its founding stages, we of course have a long way to go before we can maximise the options afforded to us by Frontline. We are particularly excited about using it in our Monitoring and Evaluation process, making the experience more interactive for our audience and ultimately, getting to know them, their habits, trends, likes and dislikes to better respond to their needs. We are also in the beginning stages of creating and developing our fanclub, which will be facilitated by the Frontline software, amongst other tools, giving us a direct and effective way of being in contact with our viewers. Any feedback, comments and ideas of course much appreciated – thanks Heather!

  37. Pete Haught says:

    After reading so much about all the good mobile technology is doing in the third world, it’s nice to actually see a really neat use for it. I wonder how many more TV stations could do something like this? It sounds like it’s been quite easy and simple to do.

    Like Heather says, keep up the great work!!

  38. Becky McLaughlin says:

    Thanks Paul. I suppose by bringing recognition to organisations like Frontline and ensuring more TV stations and programs do use such initiatives, we can only be doing a good thing. A key thing for us, and something that we are working on at the moment, is that we are reliant upon the commerical phone companies – who are not always so ready to support such causes, by allowing for reduced-rate messaging and so forth, to further spread the good of such a cause. As I say though, we are working on this! Keep us posted if you have any further comments or ideas.

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  43. Becky McLaughlin says:

    Further to Kiwanja’s comment, I was also wondering how people are coming to see this blog: what are your connections with Frontline / This interest being partly nosy and partly academic! To all those who have responded…

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