I have lots of thoughts about the Kony 2012 campaign from Invisible Children - what was smart (a lot), what was not as smart (a lot) and what it all means. Let me start with this:
Jason Russell, who narrated the Kony 2012 video in addition to directing it, told Reuters on Friday that he didn’t expect the incredibly detailed story of Joseph Kony and child militias in Africa to be answered in a mere 30 minutes. The article quotes Russell as follows:
It definitely oversimplifies the issue. This video is not the answer, it’s just the gateway into the conversation. And we made it quick and oversimplified on purpose… We are proud that it is simple. We like that. And we want you to keep investigating, we want you to read the history.
My view: the campaign concept and the video are not where the team at Invisible Children missed the mark — it was the follow-through that should have been done better/differently.
If you assume that the audience will be motivated to learn more about this issue, then you have to help them access and make sense of the necessary information. Invisible Children failed at that important task. While there is information online about Joseph Kony, and more news coverage and blog-driven analysis of the issue being published each day, Invisible Children missed the opportunity to guide and shape the conversation beyond the most basic introductory level.
Invisible Children should have created and promoted more information and insight about Joseph Kony to accompany the video — think a directors cut version that explored the background and characters that were featured. In addition, Invisible Children should have curated articles, books, interviews and other information from credible voices on this issue to help bolster their argument and provide important context to their audience.
The execution of the campaign and video were smart - and clearly resonated. By failing to more deeply engage on an intellectual level, however, that audience that saw the video, Invisible Children has missed the biggest opportunity of all - to keep the audience engaged, to get them more connected to the issues, and to build an army of supporters that they could mobilize to further promote their work and help fulfill their mission.