Kony 2012. Don’t Wag the Dog.

While pecking away on a blog about the 100th Anniversary of the Oreo cookie, my teenage daughter engages me about Kony something or other. I could tell she was quite passionate about the subject, but for the life of me, I had no idea what she was talking about. I felt as though I had walked into the middle of a movie, which isn’t unusual with my daughter, but the nature of this was more serious. “Dad it’s a big deal… how can you not know about this?” She had me watch a video that, to my surprise, was almost 30 minutes long. The movie was Kony 2012. Oh well, I was a Hydrox guy anyway.

After we watched the video, she looked at me, waiting for some sort of affirmation. “Is this a scam?” I said abruptly, starting an evening-long discussion of why I would say such a thing. I couldn’t help my reaction. Running through my mind the entire time I was watching the video was the film Wag the Dog.

Wag the Dog (1997), starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, is a dark comedy about a political spin-doctor who hired a Hollywood producer to fabricate a war in order to cover up a presidential sex scandal. I didn’t reference the movie to my daughter because at the time I knew nothing about Joseph Kony, and her emotions were running high.

Kony 2012

Despite my suspicions, I found out that Joseph Kony is very real. In 1986 He formed the “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA) in Northern Uganda. His cult-like militia is believed to have killed, kidnapped, and mutilated tens of thousands of people. He’s also known for forcing young boys to fight for the LRA and abducting young girls into slavery. Since 2005, Kony has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The LRA is still operational in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, whose governments tend to play down its impact as a military threat.

Viral Impact

To say that the video Kony 2012 went viral would be an understatement as it continues to set a new precedence in social media. Originally uploaded to Vimeo on February 20th, Kony 2012 gained little traction. It wasn’t until March 5, when the video was put on YouTube, did it skyrocket into popularity. As of today, Kony 2012 has over 55 million views, 30 million in the previous 48 hours. By far the largest demographic of viewers is young women between 13 and 17 years of age, followed by men 18 to 24.

Invisible Children Charity

Kony 2012 is the creation of filmmaker Jason Russell. Russell, along with other filmmakers Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole, founded the Invisible Children charity in 2004, after spending a year creating a documentary in war-torn Uganda, titled Invisible Children. The movie told the plight of “Night Commuters,” children of northern Uganda who would leave their homes at night to avoid LRA abduction. The charity has been under scrutiny since its inception. Its critics decry a lack of financial accountability and transparency, centering on the amount of donation dollars spent on awareness. The underlying accusation is that the Invisible Children charity is a fraudulent means to fund a group of filmmakers. The unspoken retort is that social awareness is the new currency.


So why did have the reaction I did to Kony 2012?  What made my antenna go up and made me think of a 15-year-old movie about manipulating the media to manufacture a cause? After watching Kony 2012 a few times, I realized that it has many similarities to an infomercial. The video poses a problem, provides a solution, makes a promise, and has a distinct call to action. It has celebrity endorsement, repetition, a fast pace, and gives us a “before and after” assimilation. It even has a “hurry, limited time offer” element to it. Kony 2012’s sales pitch: “make him famous.”


I realize that many of the tactics used in an infomercial are acceptable persuasion techniques, and I appreciate Russell’s well-told story, but his reliance on emotional persuasion to cause a direct response for such a serious subject leans toward the sensationalistic. I believe sensationalism’s effectiveness is also its most damaging effect, which is it serves the ego by objectifying the victim. The story behind Kony 2012 features a young Ugandan named Jacob who lost his brother to the LRA. If I could say one thing to Russell about his film it would be, “Don’t make yourself the hero and Jacob the victim. Jacob is the hero.”


Social Premium Ads. Facebook WTF?

I think it’s safe to say that the Facebook “WTF mom story” has reached urban legend status. I’ve read it and heard it told in first, second, and third person.  I’m starting to hear variations of the story now, but they all essentially stem from the same premise. Somebody’s mom from somewhere has a Facebook page, and mom has misunderstood “WTF” to be an acronym for “With The Family.” Family members don’t have the heart or are enjoying the inside joke too much to tell mom the actual meaning. The story always ends with some wacky example of mom using “WTF” in a status update, “I enjoyed being WTF on vacation last week.”

This February, Facebook announced its new Premium Ad upgrade at the Facebook Marketing Conference in New York. Some are calling it a revolution in social advertising, others an infringement upon Facebook users. All the fuss is about Facebook allowing advertisers to purchase ads based on who “likes” their corporate content. Of course, being a social site, Facebook also provides advertisers access to friends of those who ”like.” The assumption being that “friends” create their own mini demographic. Continue reading


There are many advertising and communication models used by marketers today. A particular subset that I find very descriptive, direct, and conceptually easy to understand is that of one-to-many, one-to-one, and, many-to-many. Clear. Concise. Sequential. Wouldn’t the next logical progression in this model be many-to-one? After all, isn’t it the ultimate goal of marketing to bring the many to the one? Namely, the product or service sold by the corporation?

Let’s pretend for a minute that brand doesn’t matter, and that I actually have a point here. Isn’t many-to-many a little misleading? Facebook is many-to-many and Twitter is many-to-many. Here’s my point: Many-to-many does not exist without a network. Facebook is a media network. A corporate Facebook page is not.

Many-to-many does not exist without the goal of bringing many-to-one. So how do marketers practically participate in the many-to-many advertising and communication model? Easy, bring the many to the one by creating your own network.

KLM's Meet & Seat

Continue reading

Kung Fu Panda 2, Google, and the Rebirth of Infographics

Google PandaEverybody loves a good infographic. You know, those big data illustration thingies. I especially appreciate them when I’m reading an article that’s just a little beyond my comprehension; I like the mental push I get from a well-done infographic.  Infographics come in many formats, which are often times combined: statistical, timeline, process or flow, map, and conceptual. Oh, yeah, and they drive huge amounts of search engine traffic.

Algorithms Cha-cha-cha

Google burst to the top of the search engine market in 1998, not because it could index webpages faster, but because it did a better job at ranking and weighting them. In other words, it had a better system of algorithms for assigning relevance. Google then concocted its own supply and demand, as it were, by selling the results of searchable keywords through AdWords; A pay-per-click service (PPC), which still generates the majority of Google’s revenue.

Continue reading

“…and so on, and so on and …”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to use the Faberge Organic Shampoo commercial as an introduction into yet another social media post, nor will I declare that then-Faberge CEO George Barrie should be dubbed the Father of Social Media . . . and so on, and so on, and so on.

Continue reading

Second Screen Experiences: A higher state of consciousness or more opiates for the masses?

TV watchers are an easy target for those who damn the activity. Their indignations always seem to fall upon a lack of intelligence boob tube, couch potato, idiot box, and the glorification of books. These haughty assertions are hard to refute for those of us who enjoy a good brain deadening experience, because the evidence is rather conclusive. Studies show that while watching TV, brain wave activity almost entirely switches from our left brain, which is linear, logical, and ordered, to our right brain, which is intuitive, creative, and random. This transfer “numbs” the left brain, leaving our right brain in charge.  That explains my late night urges to frequent a Wendy’s drive through.

A study commissioned by Yahoo and Nielson found that 86% of mobile users are on the web while watching their favorite shows, especially sports and reality TV. This phenomenon is part of the social TV movement called the “second screen.” That’s right, as a species we are instinctively evolving. These dual activities are reinstating a natural order by stimulating our left brain with verbal and problem solving activities, while appeasing the other half with imagery and entertainment. TV. An addiction, or a necessary evolutionary step toward a higher state of consciousness?

Continue reading

“Dewey Defeats Truman,” and the 2012 presidential election.

Truman 1948 was a tough year for pollsters covering the presidential race between Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey, and Democrat candidate, Harry S. Truman. The top three pollsters of the day (Crossley, Gallup, and Roper) had Dewey up five or more points going into the election. So confident was the Chicago Tribune of Truman’s defeat that it went to press before many of the exit poll locations had a chance to report. The results were 150,000 printed newspapers with a headline that readDewey Defeats Truman” and a humiliating public relations moment at the hands of our 33rd president.

At the heart of this polling mishap was the use of “quota sampling” that didn’t take into effect the bias telephone ownership had toward the wealthy who were more likely to be Republicans than Democrats.

Hmm, sampling bias, phones, emerging media, presidential election.

Continue reading