The post Kony campaign discussion will no doubt continue to maintain media interest in this story, and while it does i want to draw your attention to some dot connecting that reveals what i think emerged globally online last week.
1. The half hour film that went viral last week was not a documentary in the normal sense of the film discipline, neither was it pure propaganda or advertising, it was a new category of content that could be called Video Activism.
2. The story structure is interesting as its posits YOU the viewer as the Protagonist – because it is appealing to you to DO SOMETHING against the antagonist Joseph Kony. Even if all you did was tweet the film, share the link or tell someone about it you have acted. I hope the term Slacktivism as a pejorative term does not catch on, as it is only when the dots connect online that a story takes shape globally.
3. The film maker Jason Russell acts as the story’s narrator and his son Gavin is the link you the audience will make with Jacob the young Ugandan who escaped Kony’s army.
4. Through the eyes of Gavin we see an innocent uncorrupted child’s point of view about the evil of Kony – he is sad when he hears what the bad guy has done. Sadness of course can transform and mobilize into anger when action is called for. What is interesting is that Gavin wears a red & black sweater … accidental ? the same color coding as the Kony campaign logo. Is this to sustain an emotional response to the campaign when ever we see the posters on walls on April 20th?
5. While critics of The Invisible Children campaign have decried the simplicity of the film’s information, it is via Gavin’s character, who is the most powerful hook, and the single most powerful connection to Jacob. As foreign viewers to the Ugandan situation even if you had heard of the Lords Resistance Army ( and many journalists had reported this story contrary to the film maker Russell) you probably would not have made an emotion connection to the plight of Jacob, but through Gavin we all do. This explains why the vast majority of dots that connected this story online were teenage kids around the world.
6. It is clear that Invisible Children had a marketing campaign ready to roll out and a substantial Facebook & Twitter following in place before the film was uploaded.
Before releasing “Kony 2012,” Invisible Children had 444,461 fans on Facebook, according to a spokesman for the group, and 54,375 followers on Twitter. Those numbers have since climbed above 2.5 million and 380,000, respectively. But the point is that Invisible Children already had a substantial following in place to help promote the new video when it launched.
Their CALL TO ACTION is pre-empted by the statement This video will expire Dec 31st 2012 . Who ever heard of a video expiring? the date simply introduces a time limit as to when the goal needs to be completed. They even show you a mock up of a breaking news headline Kony Captured! This reinforces the belief that the mission is possible by the power of visualization.
7. At a cultural level what i think has happened here is that this film has manifested perhaps for the first time, an online Global Village Tribal Justice Reaction, eliciting the same psychological response any small tribe of humans in history would have had to one of their own caught abusing children. The immediate reaction would be to expose the guilty person, name him or her, display them in a public place then meet out a harsh penalty. The online world is not so different.
8. The content of this film essentially plugs into the Safety & Belonging levels of Mazlow’s hierarchy of human needs, 2 very emotional activating needs.
9. Viral marketing companies around the globe will be examining the strategy behind the Kony Campaign, no doubt wishing to replicate what has happened here. They would be well advised to think it through, as the global online community is very savvy & will be very weary of the next ‘Kony like Campaign’ seeking support for any cause or product. When it comes to being told what to do we don’t as a rule take kindly to it, whether the Kony Campaign will succeed in capturing Kony remains to be seen, but it has achieved its stated goal by making Kony famous. Whether Joseph Kony has escaped Uganda and now has only 200 in his army is irrelevant, perpetrators of war crimes will now know that from now on there is a global surveillance system in place through the web. Of course this can be a good or bad thing depending on who or what it is being focussed on.
10. In conclusion i think the stated goal of this film is perhaps the main media lesson. The goal of making Kony famous, was its most brilliant idea. Because as we know information exists only to give us the data we need, to make smart decisions.