If our last post on heartwarming branded content hasn’t already sent your tear-ducts into overdrive, this video by charitable organization SOS Children’s Villages will probably have you clutching a fistful of Kleenex and blubbering like a baby.
The video was meant to elicit awareness for the Syrian charity’s SOS MAYDAY campaign to collect blankets and warm clothing for displaced Syrian children and has over 12 and a half million views.
The video is an excellent example of the recent slew of social media-supplemented humanitarian action campaigns. While hearing social media and humanitarian action in the same sentence probably triggers memories of KONY 2012, rest assured, that this well-meaning campaign is a far cry from the “Invisible Children” faux-nomenon.
Online video is a great tool for charitable organizations that want to primarily use their budgets for tangible change as opposed to splashy campaigns. This video wins because it tells a story, unpretentiously and authentically. It allows the story to build on itself as opposed to constructing a rigid, didactic narrative arc. Most importantly, it highlights real-time human interactions and triggers a profound emotional response in the viewer.
The video ties in perfectly with the organization’s larger goal and contains a subtle, yet powerful call-to-action. If these strangers could sacrifice the coat on their back to keep Johannes warm, people watching this video should have no reason not to pull a spare blanket out of the closet to help a kid weather the winter.
In comparison, this viral sensation from Ukraine, titled “I Am a Ukrainian” has been at the receiving end of an abundance of cynicism. Having garnered over seven million views, the video features Ukrainian citizen Yulia Marushevska speaking out about the battle between her freedom-loving people and their corrupt government.
While protest videos are an incredibly potent way for the people to put their voice on an international platform, this one seems a little contrived. It uses propaganda-esque language and offers the viewer an all too simplistic reduction of the Ukrainian political situation. Numerous people and organizations like the Center for Research on Globalization have descried the video as a PR stunt much like KONY 2012.
While both these videos attempt to galvanize the human story to affect social change, one does it right and the other misses the mark. We applaud the sentiment, but it is crucial to remember that authenticity is the only way to make a meaningful impact in the digital space.