This is a follow-up post to When an Advocacy Video Misses Its Mark, which focused on two advocacy videos that attempted to use comedy to raise awareness to address domestic violence and climate change.  Please check the original post, videos and thoughtful comments first…

On an Advocacy Video Making or Missing Its Mark

Well, in most cases as viewers and observers, I think we can only infer on this.  Usually, only the producers and creators know if they made or missed their mark on the content, and those that are reviewing the rates of conversion (are viewers taking action as they intended). For most community groups and organizations, the producers and creators of advocacy videos are staff or volunteers – and often just one person. There were two examples I chose:

  1. David Arquette and Courteney Cox Get Freaky for OPCC“, a 90 second PSA-type video that featured Courteney Cox and David Arquette in a hotel room wearing bunny suits to support Ocean Park Community Center‘s efforts to prevent domestic violence.
  2. No Pressure“, a five-minute, celebrity directed and studded advocacy video from the folks at 10:10 Global UK, which features apathetic kids and adults being blown-up when they fail to commit to address climate change.

Both were very a-typical advocacy videos on many fronts (and you should watch them before reading).  Not only did they have celebrity engagement, they used humor and in the case of 10:10’s video No Pressure, there was clearly a lot of pre-production and production work that went well beyond virtually all groups and organizations could afford.

However, the Funny or Die video was very low production, mostly harnessing the power of celebrity – and bunny suits. In many ways, the definition of success and minutia therein is very contextual – not only video by video, but varies widely from group to group.  Importantly, with advocacy video, we tend to focus on whether the video advanced the advocacy, and with these, we’re not sure, but going to work and find out how these videos have been successful in the ways the organizations and creators intended.

Are Memorable Videos Actionable Videos?

There’s no doubt that both of these videos are memorable, and for many, quite shareable – either for comedic value (bunny-costumed celebs in a hotel room is memorable; detonating school children is memorable) or to see what friends think.  In addition to asking for readers thoughts (great comments!), I sent quite a few emails to colleagues, particularly working on domestic violence and the environment, with this subject line: “Does this video support your work?”

And of course, the comments and the responses widely varied – some loved the use of humor to shock folks regarding climate change, others thought it was offensive and made them sick, for example.  For sure, both videos are getting attention and being discussed – but the question is if that discussion is yielding more participation, action and engagement on the issues they were designed to support?

Illusion of Control with Online Video

The Funny or Die video is housed on the perfect site – a great site dedicated to comedy videos – but it is worth noting that I cannot find it on OPCC’s site, the group it is intended to support.  And “No Pressure” was on their site and YouTube, but they removed it and released a statement after they got so much blowback around the video and its use, or attempt at, humor.

A key point here is that online video is inherently fluid – it can be posted and cross-posted, edited and remixed in a myriad of ways. That is why it is so important to view a video as a stand-alone item (not housed on an organization’s website or with a description).  By doing so, one is viewing the video as it most often is – without background information and without accessible links to take action. Consequently, in my experience at WITNESS we’ve learned that if one creates a video and doesn’t make clear the suggested action for the viewer, as 10:10 Global failed to do, the chance of action – beyond sharing the video – goes down dramatically.

A Few Lessons Learned – Spotlight on 10:10 UK’s Video

Now, with the 10:10 UK’s taking-down of the video, I have a few thoughts here I think are worth sharing.  You can read their statement by Director Eugene Harvey, which is pretty generic, but Eugene, why take it down?!  This is where I think there can be a few significant lessons learned for all.

First, once a video is uploaded to YouTube or been put publicly online, you’ve lost control.  If it gets a modicum of traction, folks will copy and rip your video, and with minimal effort upload it to their account and with a bit more, remix and adapt it.  (And I think one should embrace this reality – and add a Creative Commons license.)  Copies of 10:10’s video were made and have been circulated and will continue to be circulated – YouTube is far from a safe vault.

Second, discussion is good!  Repeat: DISCUSSION IS GOOD!  By taking the video down, 10:10’s seeing interesting and active discussion (almost 2,000) on just one of the YouTube copies – which has 170,000 views!  So, the video resonated with some, appalled some and what did folks do?  They shared it, discussed it and the cycle repeats.

A taste of the nearly 2,000 comments on Youtube

Making or Missing the Mark?

Is the video gory? Over the top? Unnecessarily long? Devoid of a clear action?  I would say yes to all.  But is climate change a serious threat that requires broad attention and serious action? Absolutely. There are so many talking points that 10:10 UK could have gotten out there and opportunities they could have harnessed with this video – and I hope to learn what did come out of it.  Without a doubt, folks were engaged by the video – hopefully moving those that were already with them more motivated to act.  However, what about those that are with them on the issue, like Tina Penn, who felt the video was “very disturbing” and added, “[it] very much turned me off to the global climate defenders, even though I am one. YUCK”.  How can a group miss-out on that feedback and potential exchange? 10:10 needed to keep the video on their site and create a space for folks like Tina to respond and for the community to discuss what they thought of the video, what worked, didn’t and what should be done better next time.

Learning, Enhancing and Moving Forward

We’re all learning and building the road of video advocacy as we walk down it.  There will be, there must be, lessons learned; however, the lessons shouldn’t be kept behind a veil or sheltered from the community.  In social change work, and especially via social media, we need to invite folks to help ensure we keep on-track, to give us feedback – most importantly those that are most impacted and affected. I understand the swift move by Harvey and the folks at 10:10 UK, but I wish they would have seen the video and the controversy therein as a useful opportunity – drive more folks to their website to learn about the issues, enable more folks to discuss amongst themselves and debate, drive folks to sign-up and get more involved, and ultimately, harness the traction and attention to raise more resources. By doing so, they may have not only identified and taped-into a new batch of supporters, they would have ensured their next video project would be that much better – not to mention all of us that are also trying to optimally use video to advance social change.

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