Note: This is a blog entry originally written in March 2012, days after the launch of the Kony video, I re-post it here on its anniversary as an interesting example of video marketing. Aside from the controversy, the video was undoubtedly a success, however it’s call to action on the 20th April was a flop which makes an interesting case study of how difficult it can be to translate online success in the “real world”.
The video ‘Kony 2012’ has exploded since its upload on Monday, 5th of March, raking in views of over 80 million and becoming a massive internet phenomenon, making itself a perfect example to convey the power of viral videos.
The video has left social media sites buzzing with the story of a Ugandan war criminal and leader of cult-like militia ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’ (LRA), calling for a huge campaign to make Joseph Kony ‘famous’ and thus complete his arrest. Certainly the subject is shocking and viewers will want to help the cause, but the representation and editing of the video plays a huge role in the videos popularity.
Beginning with text straight out of a thriller/end of the world-esque film, you feel like you are being given a mission, you feel important. The shot then pans out to a clip of the earth, spinning on its axis complete with dark and ominous music, followed by the narration, ‘There are more people on Facebook now than there were on the planet 200 years ago.’ Clearly we are not the only ones who recognise the power of social networking for viral videos.
The video continues, displaying examples of how the internet enables us to connect, through email and video conferencing, and share, through YouTube and social networking. ‘The game has new rules’- incredibly true, and we are here to exploit that change too.
So why has this video been so successful? There is a host of techniques which make it worth a watch. The narrator introduces his very cute but very irrelevant son into the video, resulting in the melting of audience’s hearts across the globe. The narrator’s image is also instantly transformed into ‘caring father’ meaning audiences trust and believe his story much more.. the support for him sky rockets. The video then uses emotional images and interviews with Ugandan child and friend Jacob, on the run from the SLR, who argues intelligent points regardless of his poor education. The audience can’t help but become sympathetically absorbed by his on-going struggle and story.
The cinematic video uses dark, powerful music throughout. It’s booming synths and long drones not only build up a sensation of tension and worry, but add to the influential nature of the viral – it reminds the audience that this is a serious video. Images and shots of the globe emphasises this further, reflecting the huge scale of the project. The narrator also uses lots of commands, similar to mission statements. Voiced with a clear and enjoyable voice-over, the narrator addresses the viewer directly ‘for it to work, you must pay attention’ which makes the audience involved without even acting, and reiterates the importance of their participation.
Although there has been some backlash with regards to ‘Kony 2012’ with critics claiming, amongst other things, that Kony is the sole problem, the video has been massively successful and represents a whole new way of campaigning. The video, described as an ‘experiment’, reflects how quickly something can spread and how powerful internet videos can be: can we change history/law/society through a YouTube video? ‘Kony 2012’ creates a momentous feeling, a feeling of togetherness and is really quite powerful. Using techniques from television and cinema, ‘Kony’ could be the beginning of a new market. Come 20th April, will we see our streets covered in images of Kony’s face? Can a YouTube video save the lives of thousands of children? Or will it blow over and be forgotten about like every other internet craze? Only time will tell.