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7 Questions Jo Clifford


You’re the Man, a Cambodian reality TV show, spirited away six men to a secret location and made them endure grueling challenges to teach them a thing or two about life. The program was part of an HIV-prevention initiative by the NGO FHI360 to raise awareness about the consequences of binge drinking.

The winner of the series will walk away with US$7,000. This will be announced live on TV5 at 8.30pm on Sunday. YTM also caught the eye of global news network Al Jazeera. Cade Advertising director and show producer Jo Clifford caught up with 7Days last week to discuss You’re the Man.

You were recently approached by Al Jazeera Asia Pacific for a feature story. How did this happen?

I answered an international phone call and it was a journalist from Al Jazeera. She said she saw a feature story on You’re the Man on the Post’s website. She thought it was an interesting to use reality TV as a way of giving a message to the community and that it was something she had never seen before. Journalists from Al Jazeera fly in and out of Cambodia every now and then, so she asked if, when they next came to Cambodia, they could film a short feature piece on it? We were thrilled!

And did they follow through?

They flew in on March 10. We showed them around the You’re the Man house and they interviewed some of the contestants. The whole thing was really positive. They are putting the story together now, but we are not sure when it will be aired.

How does your team feel to get this international attention?

Delighted. Al Jazeera is probably one of the most respected news agencies. It was unbelievable to us what attention our little team could attract. It goes to show what one can do with a bold idea (in this case conceived by FHI 360), passion, blood, sweat and tears, despite having relatively few resources. Everyone is incredibly proud of what we have achieved. We will have a party once the winner is announced, which is not far away now.

The contestants must be getting pretty nervous; US$7,000 goes a long way in Cambodia.

Yes, it’s an awful lot of money for them to either win or lose. Both the contestants interviewed by Al Jazeera said it wasn’t about the money because it was such a good experience. But then they would say “But the money would be nice too”. We have a responsibility to them, we have offered them support and counseling throughout and further support is on hand if they feel they need it leading up to, or following, the results.

You mentioned the journalist thought it was an interesting concept to use reality TV as a messaging tool. Have you conveyed your message successfully?

It’s too early to tell how far our message has come across. These kinds of campaigns are a long term approach to behaviour change so evaluation right now may be difficult. We knew from the start we couldn’t advertise the show as an NGO format: no one would watch us – it had to be billed as entertainment first. We therefore developed supporting materials, such as a fun and quirky quiz about the whole season that viewers can play online, which reinforce the messages from the show.

By the way, we are having a You’re the Man baby. When we filmed a private confession with of one of the contestants, he said he wasn’t ready to start his own family. Now, and I don’t want to put words in his mouth, he is out of the house and his wife is pregnant. She fell pregnant since he left the house. It’s like they left the house having re-evaluating their lives – or maybe he just missed his wife!

What was your highlight of the show?

My personal highlight was getting the guys to evaluate the value of families and express what their family means to them. It was ground breaking for them to realise it’s ok to show your emotions. We had men, grown men crying. Also I think the episode where two of the guys had to pretend to be pregnant and wear 12 kilos of damp sand sewn onto a corset was hit.

Can we expect a You’re the Woman in the near future?

You don’t know how many times people ask that. If anyone wants to find it we would happily do it. It could address a multitude of gender issues. Contact us on Facebook of anyone wants to seriously talk about this.

Watch clips from the You're the Man show



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