Invisible Children’s (IC) Kony 2012 is the poster child of nonprofit video storytelling. It got attention (50 million YouTube views in the first week of release) and generated some level of understanding of the atrocities of Joseph Kony, the Ugandan rebel leader, and his LRA army.
Although the video will be remembered forever as a way to scale awareness at the speed of light by going viral, it also highlighted the challenges of visual storytelling. Kony 2012 generated widespread skepticism for its simplification of a complex situation, the infeasibility of the proposed solution, and the sensationalism of its storytelling. That, followed by the public and extreme breakdown of Invisible Children’s co-founder Jason Russell, raised a lot of eyebrows.
Now Invisible Children is back with this Kony 2012: Part 2-Beyond Famous video.
Narrator Ben Keesey, IC’s CEO, takes a measured approach, focusing on people working on the ground in Uganda speaking to the value of the attention generated by the first video. He addresses the “no call to action” criticism by focusing supporters on IC’s April 20 Cover the Night gatherings, to be held in cities throughout the world.
Keesey is spot on in recognizing the necessity of building the organization’s credibility. But this video just doesn’t do the job for me: it’s beautifully-produced emptiness. I just don’t buy the impact in a night of protest if the groundswell of support doesn’t have a clear next step.
My critique: The Invisible Children folks are great storytellers in the tradition of Madison Avenue—Lots of style, little substance. For me, the greatest impact of their campaign is the need for audiences to vet stories for authenticity, no matter how emotionally compelling they may be.
What’s your take? Please share your response here.
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