Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Viral Video Attempts to Stop Kony

If too many of my Facebook or Twitter friends do any specific thing, diagnosis I usually have a knee jerk negative reaction to it.

That’s because most times, vialis 40mg I find the insufferableness of any action on social media positively relates to how many people do it. Often, store these mass movements give unfunny individuals the chance to show just how far gone their senses of humor are (e.g. reposting dozens of those awful “Stuff _____ say” videos). Other times, they try to cast a trite idea or call to action as somehow profound (see: putting cartoons in one’s Facebook profile pictures in a serious attempt to bring attention to…something). Whether they come from underdeveloped humor, outsized earnestness, or anywhere in between, these moments show a lack of deep thought and a kind of groupthink that rub me the wrong way.

So imagine how I felt yesterday morning, after the third time in 15 minutes someone’s Facebook status implored me to take “just 30 minutes of my time” to watch the now famous Invisible Children video about Joseph Kony. I did it anyway, though, and I must say I was surprised by what I found.

The video about the Ugandan warlord was expertly crafted to go viral. The story was compelling; the objective was clear; the call to action was to do something big groups of social media users are prone to doing: raise awareness (see cartoons in profile pictures, above). Still, I couldn’t help but feel something was off, and not just because I instinctively mistrust the herd.

An apparently 100% white American group trying to affect social change in sub-Saharan Africa raised some colonialist red flags, but I looked past even that. I couldn’t shake the gut feeling that the solution to this problem couldn’t possibly be as simple as plucking one man out of the jungle. I am admittedly no expert in African geopolitics, but I know simplicity and straightforwardness aren’t the norms in armed conflicts. As the day wore on, articles like Musa Okwonga’s trickled out that showed more nuance and ambiguity in the situation, but by then, the retweeting was done.

As of this writing, the Youtube video has over 43 million views. TV networks would kill for those kinds of numbers for most 30 minute pieces of programming. The way people were tweeting about it, they were quite engaged with the message as well. From a communications perspective, this makes an unprecedented case for viral video as a persuasive medium. Frankly, it troubles me a bit.

Fortunately, the barriers of taking quick action on this issue, other than “raising awareness,” were substantial. Whatever powers we may have, the citizenry does not get to order a la carte military actions. In fact, despite being an oversimplification and possibly a distortion of the real story, the Invisible Children video may have a positive effect on the situation, by prompting people and lawmakers to explore the actual issues and their causes. However, in a case where quicker, easier action with less consideration were possible, such a viral video could have a real damaging effect.

Distilling complex ideas into simple, impactful messages is a hallmark of good account planning, and advertising in general. However, we must remain mindful that the power to do so gives us an ethical responsibility to maintain our messages’ integrity. 

The very qualities of mass social media actions that usually irritate me potentially make the medium of online video very powerful. It moves fast, is persuasive, gains momentum based on the sheer size of the group, and does not immediately invite deeper questioning. Clearly, we need to be very careful with such a tool.

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.