Kony 2012 viral video soon will have 100 million views. According to Visible Measures, is the campaign video with the fastest growth in history (it took less than Susan Boyle, to reach 70 million views). Moreover, raised $ 5 million revenue in the first 48 hours.
Kony 2012 is a meme
A meme is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.
How Kony 2012 has transmitted this meme? Using a Viral Video.
Let´s forget for a moment if the goal of Kony 2012 is good or bad. Let´s just analyze how they made it to create a successful viral video.
Kony video is built to enable all the viral mechanisms. It is a visual algorithm calculated to share it.
These are some of the mechanisms of manipulation that I have identified in the video, but surely there's more:
- There is a struggle between good and evil, which is a classic tale from Greece. To help identify it, the bad appears with high zoom in and subtle references to Hitler for the clueless. Encourages shared altruism.
- The story goes from more specific to more general topics and uses the first person. It's a classic technique of narrative journalism, for example, because it promotes attention and credibility.
- Ends with a call to action and an expiration date (2012). As with television shopping: call in the next 15 minutes and we'll give you another unit.
- There are many children. Besides the little black children appears a handsome blond child we all would like to take home.
- The narrative is very modern, so that young people can feel very identified with it. Use the visual language of reality: there are fragments very close to the protagonist's life.
- The linearity of the story is interrupted with flashbacks and flashforwards to keep the mind alert.
- All logos, posters and shirts that appear are exquisitely designed.
- Optimally handles the audio-visual rhythms, with its highs, lows, breaks ... all backed with music.
- It is self-referential like a virus: includes memes within himself, makes constant references to facebook, calls for self-replication.
- Uses items that our brain likes. For example people chanting slogans, dancing and feeling collective emotions or people showing emotions.
- Copies the electoral language and style of Obama campaign to call to the action.
- Uses the arguments of authorities since it works well in advertising and internet forums (the lord of the international court, documents, etc..).
- Use celebrities: Clooney, Gaga, Angelina ... and we know that as viewers / surfers there is nothing that we like more than a celebrity.
- It's long. That (a priori a drawback) manages to convey the feeling of having seen something important, a documentary and not an ad (even if all could have been summarized in two minutes).
- Everything is explained to children. Literally.
- There are births, deaths, violence, mutilations, rape, all very epic. However begins and closes very optimistic. The hard part is in rapid flashes. If you see the video without knowing its purpose, the effect is multiplied. It is depressing, but calls to action.
- Plays the "life changing", it means that it tells you something that you did not know and you will see things in life differently after that, which is another key of the virus.
- It passes the ball to the watcher constantly: you can change everything.
- It gives a very clear instructions: share, donate.
In short, the video provokes an emotion that incites action and replication. It could, for example, cause anything, or feel sad, but then it would not work.
So the question arises whether this new type of manipulation so brutally effective is ethical if it is made for a cause. The question is also "what happens when the bad guys learn how to handle these techniques" (maybe they have already learned).
The users should think instead of reacting with physical and irrational impulse of clicking the share button. The role of journalism vs. propaganda. And not least, the question of whether is encouraging or depressing that young people respond well to these calls to action: most of the visualization have been made by American teenagers.