Follow us by email

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another Look at Kony12: ‘Post-Humanitarian Advertising’

Think Africa Press has published an incredibly insightful article by James Wan about how charities communicate their message through advertising. It is well worth the read.

The article focuses on the famous Kony12 campaign, which saw a short video produced by the Kony12 organization go viral on a scale never before seen.

Wan’s analysis — namely that the Kony12 campaign distinguished itself from the type of advertising charities have used in the past by mirroring the consumerist, narcissistic qualities that prevail in today’s Western culture — cuts deeply.

It’s all of especially interest to us because, of course, one of HOPE International Development Agency’s mandates — and, indeed, the only way we can go forward with any other mandate to serve the poor — is to communicate the problem of poverty to people who can do something about it.

When we do this, we have to do it right. It’s not an easy task. Do you best serve the cause by shocking people with the depth of poverty suffered by people a whole world away? Or do you encourage positive feelings by emphasizing the good that you, as a donor, can do? Or do you appeal to the Western desire to be heroic, a kind of humanitarian super-star like George Clooney or the notorious makers of the Kony12 video?

All of these ‘trends’ in humanitarian advertising can do a lot of damage, and miss the mark entirely: letting people know that that others—just as human as they are—are suffering and could be helped. It’s incredible to think that such a simple message can be so difficult to convey without demonstrating the worst tendencies in our culture