Phil Bilbrough: Kony and the Invisible Children

“Yes Dorothy. You can change the world!” I dunno if the Wizard of Oz said those words, but I think that he would have. The Invisible Children people woke up one day and said lets change the world and I think that they have gone a long way to doing so.

So lets dial it back to before the world was changed. Americans Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole were in Africa planning to make a film about another anonymous African war when they got sidetrack by a couple of stray bullets (as you would) possibly fired by the Lord’s Resistance Army. So they re-focused on the LRA and its leader Joseph Kony. Invisible Children formed (2004) to bring LRA  and Kony to the attention of people outside Africa. Kony is or had been land and child grabbing in Central Africa for some time. Earlier this year Invisible Children produced a number of videos, got some celebrity endorsement and stepped-up their social media presence with a campaign called Kony 2012. The aim was to indict Kony as a war criminal and have him arrested.

The director, Russell, of the Kony 2012 video compares the life of his child with the lives stolen from the Ugandan children by Kony and its compelling.

I was invited to a Kony Facebook event a few weeks ago, when the word “kony” didn’t spark any recognition at all – in fact I thought it was a bar opening. I mean I was being invited to Hamilton.

Kony2012 and Invisible Children is not without significant criticism and this one and here as well. They have raised a lot of money, and they use Kony imagery on t-shirts and bracelets which has upset Kony’s victims.  Yet Invisible Children publish all their financial information, and obviously, Jason Russell is wound pretty tight if this Stuff story is exaggerated.

This campaign might need some scrutiny, possibly Kony may have some defence – maybe he was provoked or felt intimidated. I would like to think that I can change the world. I would like to encourage my kids to think the same (imagine if I taught them the opposite).

This campaign was obviously not an overnight sensation or a fluke. Invisible Children have grafted for eight years to get to this point. Many super successful online campaigns look easy and they are kind of seductive because they do. I know that they aren’t.  The eight years the Invisible Children put into their campaign surely ground a sharper promotional blade.

This campaign is great. I think that it gets scoffed because its gone “viral.” Invisible Children targeted Twitter celebs like Ryan Seacrest (and I think Oprah). Once on-board Seacrest went out to his twitter follows – only 6,266,327 of them. Great strategy. And it  WORKED!!!!!!!

African despots are a dime a dozen and this fact is taken for granted in the west. It appears that it takes millions of Africans to be murdered in Africa before the western nations raise an eyebrow. Kony2012 has made me look and many others look, and it might change the world.


Phil Bilbrough (@philbilbrough) is a freelance online advertising specialist who is blogging on the subject for Scoop at He can be contacted at

Be Sociable, Share!

No comments yet.

Write a comment: