During last week end I watched again the Kony2012 video, just to show it to a friend. The second view made me understand a bit better the whole thing. And it made me want to jot down a few thoughts.
If you still don’t know what Kony2012 is, here is some data: this video is now totaling over 100 million views on the web. In a week. It is not the typical 50″ kitten video. It’s a top notch documentary work, first quality really. And it lasts 30 minutes. So if you did not view it, please do it: 30 minutes will fly away in a flash and will activate many if not all the emotions you are capable of activating. The video is embedded below.
Kony2012 looks like the first example of a branded content campaign using Social Media as a distribution platform and is a perfect candidate in demonstrating the efficacy of Social Media in creating branding and awareness has nothing to fear in being compared to traditional media. Better than that: it will show that Social Media is far more efficient (ROI wise).
This film appears as to be sponsored by Facebook. In a very smart, elegant and delicate way. The association producing the film (Invisible Children www.invisiblechildren.com) is a US based NGO, made of young people – none over 30. This NGO is under heavy scrutiny as it looks less transparent than usual in their finance management and it did not get good ratings from organizations that evaluate NGO’s in US.
I am not focused anyway on Invisible Children now. I am interested in analyzing the communications strategy behind this Kony2012 project. I will not delete any political or ethical comment that will pop up here and there in the analysis, but I will try to be as technical as possible.
min. 0 – 1:30 - this is the sponsor message: Facebook can change the way the world as a whole considers Social Media. Facebook is powerful as if not more than analog media who up to now detained the power of influencing entire populations. In these pre-IPO times, you can put your money into Facebook and you grant yourself participation in the new mass influencing weapon America has invented.
min. 1:50 – 2:21 - The hook, made to capture the audience and make them stay with the video over the (up to now…) classic 60″. Tis film is much match longer than the usual viral video: something big must happen within the first 3 minutes unless we want to lose at least 2/3 of the audience. Let’s use one of the most interesting things for teenagers: a nice childbirth scene, and not the casual one: it’s the filmmaker’s son we are watching come to to the world. One of the basic rules to go viral is then fulfilled: let’s be real, let’s show our face, let’s be intimate and personal, let’s share our reality. We can also see here the product placement for Facebook: a very warm presentation of the timeline, to be met again later during the film.
min 3:40 - declaration of the narrator’s role and what he did all this. He does this for living, he pays bills with this and toys for his wonderful baby son. HE is doing this for civil passion – and for the wages. He is not hiding, he is being smoothly transparent: doing good is a beautiful and wise thing and everything is beautifuk and wise in America has to be well rewarded. Our narrator is not a society dropout who could not find anything better for his living. But other Invisible Children employees are not enjoying all the wealth he is receiving, they live in a garage and get paid 300 USD per month (see http://www.good.is/post/a-kony-2012-creator-defends-the-film/). They will be lower in the company (oops, Association) hierarchy.
min 3:47 - The storytelling begins with presenting the protagonist of the story: Jacob, our african friend from Uganda. His terrible story of victim of violence coming form one of the many war lord that storm the African continent war areas: Joseph Knoy. It’s all visualized within the Facebook timeline, flagship feature of the sponsor. This phase gives depth and rebuilds the stoy, going on for years, of the personal relationship between the narrator and the victim. Depth, personalization, therefore Social credibility.
min 4:36 - here is why we chose Jacob: he speaks english. We can connect with him effortlessly. The english-speaking portion of the world’s population, the culture that supports Facebook as a service, th target audience of this campaign – the anglo-saxon culture. Innocently simple, we Europeans could never limit ourselves to this naivety.
min 6:13 - target self-identification. Young Jacob is an english-speaking african, very similar to the target audience (13-24): he shares the same dreams… wishes he could become a lawyer!
min 6:25 - a boy so similar to my sschoolmates is now depressed. He sees no future. His dream of becoming a lawyer was broken by the killing of his brother and the state of fear he lives in now. All told magnificently: tears, impossible to keep them. The boy would rather die than living in Uganda today. While you are weeping, the narrator promises his young friend he will do whatever is needed to change the situation. And you, watching and sharing the sadness and fear, think exactly the same words the narrator told. You can’t do anything else now.
min 8:05 - Maximun narrative tension. Now you want to act for Jacob. Now I tell you what am I doing with my Association. Invisible Children mission statement.
min 8:39 - start of the marketing section of the movie. The strategic call to action engaging the audience giving them something factual to do: “this film will expire 31 dec 2012″ – an action program with a precise mission to accomplish and a date to measure its success against. Political comment: the mission is not about helping a nation exit a permanent state of war working at political or operating level. The mission is to eliminate the villain. This Kony is as bad as Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or Gaddhafi. He is mean, he has a face. He deserves to be eliminated, so we can all live happily ever after. International politics seen from a very basic point of view, as the american people sees it… but let’s keep watching the movie…
min 8:50 - call for flashmob, just a teaser at the moment. The audience is not heated enough to make it openly.
min 9:20 - Educational. Now the narrator will tell you how things really are like. He does it explaining this to his 4 years old son, therefore no way of misunderstanding form the audience. It is wondrous the way he asks his son “do you want to know the bad guy’s name?”: he tells the name, but after showing a photo with K0ony’s face on. He is a real person. So you understand that solving a huge problem like the children-exploiting armies in Africa is solved just stopping a single villain. So western-movie like. I associate the villain photo with the victim photo, the family african friend, so you know it’s all personal. Sadness and horro follow, to show how bad is Kony. I will not anyway mention the fact that what Kony did to children in Uganda was before done by the official Uganda army. I will not tell anyone now that trying to capture the villain will probably bring more deaths to the country… better said her by Chris Blattman http://chrisblattman.com/2011/11/21/what-you-should-be-reading-if-you-want-to-understand-the-us-and-the-lords-resistance-army/.
min 11:50 - more depth. Here is the main evidence: the bad guy is officially a bad guy. It’s the International Crime Court at The Hague certifying it (http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/About+the+Court/). Do you know what the ICC is? It’s an international independent institution, promoted initially by the UN but not part of the UN system. It is not controlled by any elected government and funded by the founding states, other institutions and voluntary donations, therefore not representing any population. Its state says that founder States will not be prosecuted but the Court for facts happened before its approval by any participating State. On top, if a State can and will deal with the problem, the ICC hs no jurisdiction at all. USA have signed the ICC founding treaty, but they don’t want to ratify it. Maybe they are still doing something questionable… Just as Israel and Sudan are not yet ratifying the Court operations (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Criminal_Court).
min. 13:12 - following Moreno Ocampo’s interview (he is the Chief Prosecutor at the ICC), the narrator’s son confirms that even a 4 years old boy sees the issue exactly as the ICC sees it. We all think as the ICC thinks now. Then we see the campaign endorsements: very wisely the advocates are normal people. They have been activated by Invisible Children actions aiming to make the Kony story a real issue. It’s all happening thanks to the fact that public projections of documentaries raised the awareness on the Kony case, but more importantly thanks to the use of the sponsor community platform. Then the testimonial is added: Jacob is flown to Aemrica to show his case.
min. 15:49 - explaining what Invisible Children do on top of just creating awareness: theybuilt a couple of schools and other techincal tools to protect the local Ugand population.
min 17:10 - after the data, room to emotions: showbsiness at its maximum, choirs and songs. More emotions and strong ones.
min 17:30 - presenting the global reach for the campaign. presentazione della globalità dell’iniziativa. Global?? We only see countries and cities that speak english language. Is it only naïf telling something is global because it happens in NYC, London, Sydeìney and Toronto with the weird addition of Mexico? Oh sure MExico is watching US tv. Where’s the rest of the globe?
min 18:00 - presentino what Invisible Children did on the lobbying side of the campaign: influencing politicians, US politicians only. Fully bipartisan, Democratics and Republcians together.
min 18:40 - this is already happening with success: jump on the winner bandwagon. We even received a letter from Obama telling us they will send military adviors helping the Uganda government catch Kony.
min 19:44 - it’s good to know that using the Army (even without soldiers) this time comes form the people, guaranteeing us that it’s done because it is right and not because there’s some interest to be protected. One could say there’s more than one reason for the US government could be interested in doing something in Uganda, being one of the few non-islamic count riles down there. We are as an audience now well convinced everything is perfect as we see it, and we reach for the Keleenex box once again.
min 21:10 - we give substance to the call to action filling in some historical reference (Hitler) and the authoritative explanation of powerful testimonials (the member of parliament and the ICC prosecutor) , just to make sure we are on the right side and need to act now.
min 21:30 - why do we care about Knoy alone? he is #1 in the ICC list. The list, though, is built as a timeline starting with the first man prosecuted by the Court, not because of the level of the menace. It’s good to see anyway Kony is Public Enemy #1 – at least visually speaking.
min 21:42 - a very strong piece of the film: technically perfectly explaining what we need to do now so that Kony is secured within this year. The answer is: make Knoy visible, the only ay to make kids go home safely.
min 22:55 - It’s wonderful to see the narrator’s son face when his father tells him Kony is invisible. And that in order to make him visible, therefore catchable, things has to happen now.
min 22:59 - showing the awareness mechanics: get some ambassadors to the campaign among celebrities and politicians. We see also Mark Zuckerberg alongside Oprah, Rihanna even Geroge Clooney. And Bono and Angelina.
min 24:13 – the point is that this election year, both parties in US can agree and do something together. Interesting to see here the call to action instructing how to get in touch with US representatives. You do so on your own, yes you can sign a petition (not even a ZIP code to help identify where the pressure is coming from, not to mention the alleged globality of the initiative that cannot find a solution here). The lobbying target is exclusively the US congress.
min 24:55 - Paradigm Shift: this is interesting for communication professionals. Declaring project Kony2012 will use, redefining them, the awareness paradigm the comparison is immediately leveraged against traditional advertising campaigns form global brands. A street artist clarifies that (thanks to Social Media) you donut have to be a corporation or a media company to be able to ignite a global awareness campaign. He is forgetting to mention a lot of cash ant into this campaign and more is needed just to create awareness, not to solve the problem in itself. The good and new thing is that this cash is coming from real people and not by influential institutions and multi-national corporations.
min 25:22 – closing in to he end of the film: time to sell! The action kit (actually an awareness generation kit) to go beyond Social Media contains a unique code to identify your contribution to the campaign. Crowdsourced awareness: after having made you online ambassadors for the campaign, we give you the tools to make your part in the real world increasing the campaign reach. You can pay for the kit or have it for free if you agree on a periodical, long-term contribution to Invisible Children.
min 26:26 - Flash Mob: cover your city walls with the Kony campaign posters on April 20, 2012. Guerrilla marketing, suggested by the images in the movie, showing what to do and how to do it.
min 27:09 – substantiate the flashmob call to action with an infographic depicting the communication strategy behind the campaign. A very beautiful quote “now people in the world can see each other. And they can protect each other.” A very powerful promise giving Social Networks a reason why beyond what they are used for now. The balance of powers is changing, people has more power and can do more.
min 27:40 – The ICC prosecutor Ocampo tells us about the “Facebook world we all ive in now”. It is a borderless world where people exchange ideas on potential scale much bigger than US only.
min 27:56 – reinforcing the basic question: now we can do something, personali and globali at the same time. A celebration of the empowerment this generation can reach, with the caveat that what we ediceide to do or not to do now will have such an impact to be able to influence the existence of future generations.
min 28:34 - rewarding. This is where we see how I will take a personal advantage being part of this campaign. I will become a person worth admiring, worth my son admiration… “when I grow up I wanna be like you”. Plus, I can make the world a better place.
min 29:25 - wrap up. Theree things to be done now, plus a fourth one wich is completely free.: share the video. It makes me a little sad, personally, that an NGO declaring to work for peace uses so much military jargon and favorus the use of military and coercion. But this is a much larger and more complicated issue. Maybe this is the reason why tipis campaign will succeed: it does not make you face things that need to be changed. It just uses what’ already around to make a small step in the right direction. Maybe using wrong methods, but obtaining factual results. Welcome to the Facebook world.
I lied the video so much. It is very well done, an academy award level production (but I am sure professional video makers will be able to question the campaign on a more technical level…).The beauty of the product made me itch, anyway. If it’s so sleek and perfect, will it be true, real? It does not look like something being done by people who travelled to Africa to help someone. It made me think that given the tiny objective they are pursuing the effort might be hiding something larger than Joseph Kony. Upfront is the prominent Facebook presence throughout the film: makes me archive this experience as an awareness campaign on the strength Facebook has in the media world, apparently at a global level.
A small ist of “I don’t like it because…”
- too professional (but not artistic) for a credible non profit organisation
- too much advertising for Facebook
- excess use of military jargon. They mention a coupéìe of times over the 30 minutes they are against war. But they use war and war methodologies to obtain the capture or elimination of an enemy, they don’t want to fight the causes of a local conflict. This story reminds me of Iraq and Afghanistan “peace keeping” wars fought by USA after Vietnam. Lesson learned CIA.
- new social marketing 101: looks like the Invisible Children guys read all the manuale and tried to apply them. Making it damn well.
- non trasparent. This one is nasty. Maybe they are too young to have tought about prtecting themselves from this kind of backlash. A large part of the Web is already attacking them on this side marking the Kony2012 campaign as scam. I agree there’s a lot untold and everything looks too simple to be credible.
One thing should be clear though: if and when Joseph Kony should be captured or even killed, I will shed no tears. I might open a bottle.
This story will develop much more over the next weeks: will you be following the story? Your comments are very welcome!
I would like to give voice to an Invisible Children critic, so we can balance the weight odf a very well crafted campaign. I copied Nick McCormack, student, comment appeared on Fscebook on the official Invisible Children wall nd looks very well documented and nastier than my “dislike list”:
Is Joseph Kony Even In Uganda?
Nope. Uganda is in a phase of rebuilding. The Kony 2012 video and Invisible Children make it seem that Joseph Kony is a monster ravaging through Northern Uganda as if he were Godzilla stomping through Tokyo. However, a quick fact check has pointed me to this: On July 8th, 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) named Joseph Kony the number one criminal in the world because of his crimes in Uganda. Shortly after the ICC indicted Kony, he fled Uganda and officially has been in hiding since 2006 (Source). Basically, he has since been hiding in a hole like Saddam Hussein and has approximately as much power as Saddam Hussein had while he was living in his hole, next to none. Hold that thought for later.
In short: I’ve just learned that this company “Invisible Children Inc” is lying. They’re making money off a man and a problem based on our ignorance.
Who Are Invisible Children?
Invisible Children is a company that was created by a few college students who travelled to Uganda and made a movie about it. They didn’t travel there looking for a story, they had to make one up as they went. They can be best described in this quote: “Invisible Children is too late. It has taught us that MTV type media can get university students interested in a world crisis, the problem is it took too much time. Night commuting, outlined as one of the major problems in northern Uganda by the film, is practically non-existent now. Why? Peace is coming to the region.” (Source). I’ve also learned that Invisible Children Inc isn’t even accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Susan G. Komen has come under fire for recent decisions that have been made and because their CEO makes millions, regardless they’re accredited because they’re a legitimate charity that helps millions of women. Invisible Children Inc is not accredited, which tells me they may not be a real charity, and that’s a huge red flag.
A little digging has shown me that they are in fact a charity organization and cannot profit, which is nice, except that the organization’s three filmmakers and co-founders receive a combined pay of $223,922 and in addition, Invisible Children holds the following assets: computer equipment ($751,000), transportation equipment ($288,762), video and camera equipment ($177,769), and furniture and fixtures ($45,361). (Source 1)(Source 2). The first source tells us that Invisible Children is very good with their money: Everything checks out and is accounted for, however, they score very low in their Accountability and Transparency. Basically that means they handle their money well, but they may not be doing what we think they should be doing with their money.
In short: Invisible Children has already lied about Joseph Kony being the Godzilla of Uganda, so my belief is that the executives and filmmakers at Invisible Children continue to make movies that are a few years too late and rely on college students and younger people to fund their travels around the world so that each of them can live a very moderate life averaging a little over $80,000/year. In the process, they’ve accrued a great deal of funds to build their movie making and documentary system and in return, all they have to do is build a few schools and buy clothes for people in Uganda with the extra money so not to make it look like it’s a giant scheme.
Are There Bigger Problems Facing Africa?
Yes, lots. The issue with what seems like a vast majority of people these days is that they assume killing the bad guy will lead to prosperity. Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq have all lost their vicious leaders and we expected them to be fixed by now. Egypt is in a rebuilding phase, Syria is a dump, Afghanistan is still in war, and Iraq is a dump. Saddam Hussein was tried and given capital punishment in 2006: Iraq is still rebuilding from that (hold this thought too). Uganda is in the process of rebuilding which involves needing supplies for schools, education, economy, clean water, heath care and a strong organized government. The people of Uganda need to unite and come together to form one peaceful community, but that is going to take many many years.
In short: Uganda has a lot more than 99 problems and they can’t be solved overnight, and especially not with the arrest and/or assassination of Joseph Kony.
Still holding those Saddam Hussein thoughts from earlier? Here everything will make sense: Joseph Kony left Uganda and is effectively hiding with no power since 2006 and Uganda has been rebuilding since. This means Joseph Kony is basically Uganda’s Saddam Hussein (Saddam hasn’t been in power in Iraq since his death in 2006). Watch what happens when I translate Uganda to have it make sense to uninformed Americans: Invisible Children is telling us that we should make Joseph Kony Saddam Hussein famous in 2012, because Joseph Kony Saddam Hussein is running rampant in Uganda Iraq and is killing innocent children. Saddam Hussein has been dead since 2006, Joseph Kony has been (pretty much) dead since 2006.
Invisible Children is trying to make money from our ignorance based solely on the fact that they’re a relatively small organization and have avoided major public backlash and scrutiny for lying directly to us by flying just under the media radar. However, with this new Kony 2012 effort: I can almost see the future say with confidence that Invisible Children is going to come under major fire for exaggerating the facts and manipulating people in their course for making money.
Do not trust Invisible Children with your money. It’s pretty easy to see that there’s a large amount of evidence pointing to this company being a money making scheme by a few smart men who have been able to dance around the law and media scrutiny.