I’m impressed but also a little bit horrified.
By now over 15 million people have seen Invisible Children’s Kony2012 campaign, a 29 minute film detailing the horrific actions of the Lord’s Resistance Army and its leader. This rebel group, which has captured 30,000 young children and molded them into guerilla fighters and sex slaves, started in Northern Uganda in the 1980’s but has since moved out of the region into the Eastern Congo and Central African Republic.
Despite the video’s recent release, it has seen an overwhelming amount of criticism – some of which I believe is warranted. Put simply, the movement would have been beneficial decades ago when the LRA was still highly powerful and in Uganda. Sadly, it was entirely ineffective at relaying where exactly the atrocities were currently being committed. The result? Now the general public, as evidenced by my Facebook newsfeed, still believes Uganda is a war zone. The campaign was also unclear about what exactly it wanted its viewers to do aside from signing a pledge, donating their money or putting up a yard sign.
But, weaknesses aside, we all need to admit: this campaign is one of the most effective marketing ploys we’ve seen in a very long time. So let’s focus on what made the video so powerful and leave the political and global implications for the experts.
Heart-wrenching cinematography? Check!
Images of young, frightened Uganda children running for their lives into the night combined with the producer’s toddler son Gavin, giving us his opinion on the travesties. How can you not feel emotional? I can’t help but wonder if they strategically placed Gavin front-and-center in the film because they thought the public would best understand the conflict if it were simply explained to them by a “parent.” Give us a little credit please!
Highly overpriced bracelet and poster? Check!
But wait, it gets better. You also get one to share with a friend. This is a key item for any “Action Kit” because it allows supporters to be identified by a signature item while helping them feel a sense of group pride and loyalty. Apparently the kit was so popular that sales had to be put on hold because of high demand. Wasn’t this something they should have been anticipating or is the shortage part of the more elaborate plan?
Make young people feel empowered? Check, check, check!
The video was genius-ly focused on “this time” and “this place.” College students are a prime target for inciting change because we always want to be a part of the next big movement. The video tapped into our idealism, energy and talent for social media.
I happen to believe that this video is only Step 1 of an elaborate process that we will see unfold over the coming weeks. I think it is unlikely that the campaign released this video more than a month before their event on April 20th expecting the energy to maintain itself. While the video was obviously effective in igniting a virtual frenzy, it was not as effective in disseminating the correct information.
So, for all you idealistic, bracelet-wearing activists please also check out the two valuable critiques of the video below and Invisible Children’s response. The best opinion is always the most informed.
Invisible Children’s Response