Why did Kony 2012 go viral?

Hey all,

I’m Karl and I’ve recently joined ICAN as a copywriter.

The good or bad news, depending on how you look at it, is that I’ll be blogging right here from time to time.

So, without further ado…

 

What the advertising world can learn from Kony 2012.


If you work in advertising you may be asked to ‘do a viral’. It’s easier said than done. I tried one a few years ago. The last time I checked it had around 1,500 views on youtube. It’s viral in name alone. I’ve put it down to experience.

Whatever you think about the whole Kony 2012 campaign, it’s certainly gone viral. At the time of writing it has almost 100 million views online. That’s impressive, phenomenal even.

So, what exactly did they do right? What does it take for a video to ‘go viral’?

I’ve watched it a couple of times, here’s what I reckon:

It’s soft.

The Kony video deals with a serious subject without being too serious. Facts are glossed over and actual information is thin on the ground. This works for them. Let’s be honest, people generally don’t know about the situation in Uganda, nor do they want to. When they’re offered a toned-down bubblegum version, they lap it up.

The child.

The documentary maker uses his little kid as the main narrative in the video. This is smart (and somewhat sinister). Show someone a little innocent western kid and they’ll soften. Automatically you have an emotional connection. Show them actual combat from Uganda and they’ll generally turn your film off.

High Production values.

The film looks like a slick Hollywood production. It’s heavily branded and at times looks more like an advert for Invisible Children than an actual information piece. It’s also 30 minutes long. Making it this length was a bold decision. The normal attention span for someone online is a couple of minutes.  When viewers took the time to watch Kony2012 they felt they were making an investment. When they shared it they felt they were making a difference. Of course in reality, all they were doing was sitting at their computer screens. But it’s all about perception.

 

So, what can the advertising world learn from Kony 2012?

In a nutshell – Present your audience with a simple idea. Don’t overcomplicate things and don’t get too serious. Or in the case of Kony2012, choose style over substance.

Try and make some kind of emotional connection. Kony 2012 used a child, maybe a kitten will work for you?

Finally, keep the production values high. Virals are often hampered by budget constraints – but the slicker it looks the more engaging it’ll be.

Sounds easy, I’m off to make a worldwide viral hit.

 

Karl Waters

Karl Waters - Copywriter

Many moons ago Karl moved to London with dreams of being a filmmaker. Several years later he returned, still dreaming. Luckily, he found and fell in love with advertising. Karl has worked in both traditional and digital ad agencies before finding his home at ICAN. Karl has a strange obsession with early 80’s Italian disco music. Karl loves writing about himself in the 3rd person. He thinks it makes him sound important.

Karl Waters

Karl Waters
Copywriter

Many moons ago Karl moved to London with dreams of being a filmmaker. Several years later he returned, still dreaming. Luckily, he found and fell in love with advertising. Karl has worked in both traditional and digital ad agencies before finding his home at ICAN. Karl has a strange obsession with early 80’s Italian disco music. Karl loves writing about himself in the 3rd person. He thinks it makes him sound important.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 3:12 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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