Kony leads the social media revolution

On Tuesday afternoon a 29-minute long video was uploaded to YouTube.  Fast forward three days and it has amassed 46 million views and been tweeted by Twitter heavyweights including Stephen Fry and Kim Kardashian. Pretty impressive for a video that doesn’t feature a cat playing peek-a-boo, a skateboarding dog or a child biting its sibling’s finger.

So why was it only yesterday that the world’s media started to pay attention?

Given that roughly 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute to the YouTube, it would have been easy for this particular video to have slipped into obscurity.  But this video, produced by campaign group Invisible Children, tells the story of Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerrilla group leader who recruits young children throughout Central Africa for his Lord’s Resistance Army.  The LRA recruits the young and the vulnerable by forcing them to kill their parents leaving them dependant on the LRA.

The film, presented by Jason Russell, centres around Jacob – a boy from Uganda he met in Africa 10 years ago who first alerted him to Kony’s regime.  Since then Russell has campaigned to get US and worldwide government attention to address the problem, stop Kony and bring him to arrest under the International Criminal Court.  I won’t go into the details of Kony’s carnages, or Jacob’s terribly sad story. Instead, I urge you to watch the video yourself and make your own judgements: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Invisible Children want to ‘Make Kony Famous’ in 2012 – not to celebrate him, but to make the world aware of his crimes by encouraging people to watch the video and then share it with their friends via Twitter, Facebook and other social media.  It’s this element of the campaign that, from a marketing perspective, has really stood out for me. Working in the communication industry, we are all aware of the power of social media and viral in creating change, whether that’s the name of a type of bread in Sainsbury’s or Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign

As Russell points out in the film, 20 years ago it was just a handful of powerful people with huge amounts of money that influenced the media and the governments, who in turn influenced the people. But if 2011’s Arab Spring taught us anything, it’s that the power of the people and social media can change the status quo and decide what is written about in the press. Invisible Children has capitalised on this. Through its utilisation of social media and word of mouth, what began as a small group in California was able to make the world sit up and listen and now has hundreds of thousands of members.

Whilst ‘Kony’ has been trending worldwide on Twitter since Tuesday, ITN, The Huffington Post, Telegraph.co.uk, The Guardian and The Evening Standard only started running the story over the past 36 hours – more than 24 hours after the video was first posted online. This drives home the growing superiority of online and social media in producing news, generating buzz and content creation. The Guardian, in fairness, has captured this perfectly in its new Three Little Pigs ad

In an age where our trust in traditional media is at an all-time low (News International, I’m looking at you), the social media revolution can offer us the chance to help create, contribute and form news agendas much faster than traditional media ever can.  ‘Make Kony Famous’ is the perfect example of this and I encourage you all to watch and share the link and become part of this particular social media revolution.  




Christmas advertising is here – how have brands performed?

As Christmas nears, our TV screens are once again filled with festive-themed ads as brands clamour to draw in the all-important Christmas shoppers. From the sentimental to the downright brash, they are certainly a mixed bag this year. So who has left us feeling thoroughly festive and ready for a Christmas splurge?

Well we certainly can’t look past the success of John Lewis’ latest effort. ‘The Long Wait’, created by agency Adam & Eve, has really caught the imagination of consumers. The ad has been an instant hit, achieving the holy grail of good advertising: it’s got people talking. What’s the secret of its success? It creates suspense and tells a story viewers can relate to – one which, in short, realises every parent’s dream. This emotional resonance, captured in the tagline ‘for gifts you can’t wait to give’, goes a long way when nestled amongst a lot of other predictable, outdated and ever-so-slightly corny fare jostling for our screen space.

Promoting flamboyant spending is ill-advised in the current economic climate and Tesco has somewhat thoughtfully chosen to lead its advertising with the strap line ‘Keeping Christmas Special’, whilst focusing on low price festive goods. Angela Porter, Tesco’s senior marketing manager, explains: “Just because times are tough doesn’t mean that Christmas has to be less special.  Tesco understands this and wants to help keep Christmas special for the whole of Britain, no matter who you are or how you choose to celebrate.”

This festive season has also seen the swansong of Jamie Oliver’s time as Sainsbury’s brand ambassador. Sainsbury’s Christmas panto advert, starring the TV chef, debuted last week and, like John Lewis, aimed for the feel good factor – but falls a little short with a certain air of the predictable.

Coca-Cola’s latest ‘Holidays are coming’ revival and Marks & Spencer’s X Factor themed ad have both grabbed the headlines, but neither have been able to get close to the 200,000 online shares and over one million YouTube views achieved by the John Lewis ad. Annual tradition or not, we’ve all seen the Coca-Cola ad a hundred times before, and this year’s X Factor (staged infighting and rogue contestants aside) has so far failed to spark the public’s imagination.

Although the Christmas season poses a fantastic opportunity for brands, it’s easy for them to get lost in the tidal wave of themed ads.  John Lewis is currently emerging victorious in the battle of Christmas advertising, but the true brand winner will only be revealed once Christmas has passed and sales performance is reviewed. But for now we can sit back and enjoy the show…                                                                         

Ian Savage

Copycat packaging – is it really a good idea to start a war with all-powerful supermarkets?

It has been announced this week that Diageo is to sue Sainsbury’s over the supermarkets copycat version of Pimm’s, which was launched in April, arguing it as an infringement of its intellectual property.  Having looked at the bottles, it is quite clear that Diageo have a reason to kick up a bit of a fuss:

The similarities are impossible to ignore – from the sans serif font to the colours and shape to the serving recommendation.  Sainsbury’s even cheekily add that the drink has been launched ‘just in time for all the top summer events; Ascot, Henley and of course, Wimbledon’.  Events all previously associated with Pimm’s, and the infamous slogan ‘it’s Pimm’s o’clock’. 

This isn’t the first time that Sainsbury’s has been in the press over copycat packaging.  The supermarket is also said to have cashed in with an own-label shampoo in similar packaging to Head & Shoulders.

So you can understand Diageo’s frustration.  However, whilst taking the dispute to court is a brave move, is it a wise one?  Not only is Sainsbury’s one of the UK’s biggest supermarkets, but it is also one of Diageo’s biggest customers.    

In recent years the power that supermarket’s hold over brands has grown, illustrated in the demand for more competitive prices and aggressive discounting.  With that in mind it is refreshing to see a brand finally stand up for their product and its value, but whether this will come off well for Diageo remains to be seen. Currently there is no legislation that stops any retailer from copying leading brands packaging in order to raise the profile of their own-label product.  According to research, one in three consumers have bought own-label products with copycat packaging, with 65% agreeing that it is often confusing to distinguish between own label and branded products.

And unfortunately, according to British Brands Group Director John Noble, going to court is not always the best choice: “It’s a very ineffective line of action.  Not only is it very expensive, but ineffective as well because it is very difficult to prove consumer confusion in court.”  

Could Diageo be wasting its time completely?