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Raising an Eyebrow Watching Old Viral Marketing

Raising an Eyebrow Watching Old Viral Marketing

Fascination, awe, sadness, and hesitancy summarize my mixed emotions upon watching Kony 2012 for the very first time over a decade later in 2023. Fascination that I’d completely missed this viral marketing phenomenon. Awe as memories flooded back of late night television cable-surfing only to be hit with guilt fueled advertising. Sadness from the raw images being shown. Finally, hesitancy taught to me that not everything I’m told by someone on the internet can be trusted outright, especially when something is being asked of me be it money or action.

There was a timeliness to the effort now lost on me. Some pieces of media can only be properly experienced once or are only meaningfully engaged in while it remains relevant and Kony 2012 resides among the latter.

I found myself watching a white man with a traditionally nuclear family in America telling me how he dreams of solving the problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army overseas. Moreover, my eyebrows were rising suspiciously with how much a Ugandan kid was seemingly being used as a spokesperson and the filmmaker’s own son was given suggestive and leading questions until he said he wanted to grow up to be just like his dad.

Valuable lessons can be learned, however, as we engage with viral marking in 2023. Kony 2012 sold action kits to paint the streets the reality looked different. While Black Lives Matter as an organization may be questionable, the grassroots movement spawned from the phrase reached the streets and spread through a wide selection of non-profits on the ground. Net Neutrality has frequently offered actions like calling your local senators.

Invisible Children assumed that the campaign’s online success would be enough to motivate their supporters to get off Facebook and take to the streets. It failed to recognize with no offline direction other than a vague call to community service was unlikely to inspire the slacktivists the campaign had attracted in the first place.

Confessions of a Kony 2012 Action Kit Purchaser by Shanoor Seervai

Virality is a part of our modern online engagement and it’s important to do our research when information is presented to us with a request for action. Hope often isn’t enough, but what is the right way to perform proper activism in a modern space? Perhaps that question is still being answered. As there’s more viral marketing that’ll hit my small or large screen again soon I’m sure, I only wish it’ll be well researched and accompanied by a solid action plan.

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