Yesterday my friend Katrina sent me this video made by teen digital activism organization Do Something for Island Dog an animal welfare group which promotes “animal friendly communities” in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. It’s a strong example of advocacy video so I thought I’d share it and a bit of analysis.
Tools: video camera, editing software, YouTube, eBooks
Lessons from this Case: This video works for several reasons, which are described below. If you would like a more comprehensive post on activist video strategy, with multiple examples, check out the post.
- Make your cause personal: All too often, advocacy campaigns are about issues and ideals – human rights, environmental sustainability, peace, social justice. While these ideals are compelling, they are also distant and intangible. An effective campaign will make their cause person, both in terms of who is effected as well as the activists who are working for change. This video lets the founders of the organization tell their own stores of why they started Island Dog (timecode: 0:06 – 0:40). Because these are passionate activists, they make their cause compelling.
- Present policy issues through stories: This video also uses interview as a way of getting at policy issues. One problem mentioned in the video (timecode: 0:42) is that stray dogs in Puerto Rico are killed using rat poison, a slow and painful death. Rather than presenting this issue through slides, an activist from the organization talks to a visitor on camera about the issue. The emotion response of the activist, as well as the visitor, pull the viewer in.
- Show the problem and the solution: The video starts on a very sad note with anecdotes about dog abuse and neglect in Puerto Rico. However, at 1:05, the music changes and the video is about the solution to the problem, what the campaign has already done, and what viewer can do to get involved. The stories in the beginning inspire sympathy in the viewer and the second part of the video inspires a sense of hope that it is possible to change the situation. Hope for change is crucial. Supporters will only get involved if they feel that your campaign will succeed.
- Put you audience in the video: The audience of this video is teenagers, and the narrator, teen actress Selena Gomez , is prominent in the video. This is good because it helps viewers to see themselves as part of your cause.
- Present statistics in context: Statistics and other factual evidence are critical in giving advocacy campaigns credibility, but statistics in bulk can be boring (especially for a teen audience). This video does a good job of presenting quick statistics (“There should be 78 shelters in Puerto Rico and there are only 5″) within the interview-style narrative of the film.
- Show you are an active campaign: In order to inspire viewers to take part, they need to know that your campaign is active (and thus likely to succeed). Don’t just say what you want supporters to do, tell them what you are already doing to make change (timecode: 1:31 – 1:53).
- Give contact info: In order to take action (and so they can become part of your email list), you want supporters to come to you. This video shows the group’s web site URL three times and speakers say the URL twice on camera. You can also show a contact e-mail address or Facebook group in your video.
- Show supporters taking action: Don’t just ask people to take action, show them taking action on the video. This makes whatever you are asking them to do seem more accessible. In the video the narrator, Selena, vaccinates does with the members of the organization (timecode: 2:14). In addition, the video has two in-depth interviews with supporters who have taken action be adopting a stray dog, one of whom is my friend Katrina (timecode: 4:20). When a supporter promotes your message, that gives it greater credibility with other potential supporters. The message is: “I am taking action and so can you.”
- Tell viewers how to take action: It’s great to inspire viewers to get involved, but if you don’t give them specific ideas of what to do, then the video is unlikely to increase participation. This video gives three ways viewers can take action: 1) become a sponsor, 2) send a donation, 3) adopt a stray 4) take part in an auction to benefit the group. The good thing about these actions is that they allow for different levels of commitment (5 minutes to make a donation or changing your life by adopting a pet). They also appeal to different audiences (an adult might make a donation, but a teen would prefer to join a gift raffle).
- Keep it under 5 minutes: This is the only criticism I have of the video – it’s a little too long. Ideally an advocacy video should be under 5 minutes. People will only squint at a tiny video image so long before they get bored.
- Yes, it’s nice to know a celebrity: I have to mention this, since it is probably the biggest factor in this video’s incredible popularity on YouTube (200,000 views in 4 days). The main character in the video is Selena Gomez, a teen star on the Disney Channel. This certainly was an effective way to grab the attention of the video’s teen audience. However, I also want to stress that Selena’s presence on the video pushed it over the top, it wasn’t the only factor in it’s effectiveness. The other effective techniques of this video are accessible to anyone with a video camera. And you definitely don’t need to know any celebrities in order to make change!
Impact: Over 200,000 viewers have watched the video in its first week. There are 5,500 comments and 8 video responses, free and where to buy cheap eBooks