Q&A: The role advertising agencies can play in development work

The TBWA\Khanga Rue Media team creating content for one of their development projects. Photo by: TBWA\Khanga Rue Media

NAIROBI — Four years ago, TBWA\Khanga Rue Media, an advertising agency based in Tanzania, began working with development partners on designing products and campaigns directly for beneficiaries. At this point, the agency began to devote resources to training its staff in areas such as the technical aspects of social behavior change communication campaigns and behavior economics, as well as working to develop partnerships in the sector. Now, the agency is working with development partners across the African continent and some of its employees are devoted full time to development work across all departments of the company, from finance, editorial, content making, and strategy.

Through this work, the agency is often involved in national or regional social behavior change communication campaigns, aimed at changing norms and addressing community barriers. An example of this is the agency’s work with Population Services International on its Adolescents 360 program, where it aims to increase contraceptive use among girls.  

The agency also has its own products that it developed independently, which then drew in the interest of the development community. Noa Ubongo, which the agency developed in 2016, is a free learning channel aimed at tackling youth unemployment in East Africa. The agency is now partnering with the Financial Sector Deepening Trust, USAID's Tanzania Youth Economic Empowerment Activity, DAI and the Digital Opportunities Trust on the project.

Devex spoke with Pat Olvera, creative director and co-founder of TBWA\Khanga Rue Media, about the value added to development work by advertising agencies and the role he sees these agencies playing moving forward.

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About the author

  • Headshot sarajerving

    Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is Devex's East Africa Correspondent based in Nairobi. She is a reporter and producer, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Nation magazine, among others. Sara holds a master's degree in business and economic reporting from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow.