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Using video for social change

Author's avatar By Neil Davidson 16 Sep, 2013
Essential Essential topic

A great video can change the world

A combination of the right stories, the right visuals and the right music can be powerful enough to bring the masses on board with a cause. This is a great tool for marketers who are using video every day to win their audiences over. However, video technology is now in the hands of the many, rather than the few, and the underdog has a fighting chance which can cause BIG damage to existing brands as the first example shows. The balance of power has shifted and the big brands need to be wary… their best weapon can quite easily become their biggest enemy.

Here are five great examples of videos that have been made to bring about some kind of social change – from simply highlighting an injustice, to big calls to action for a specific cause.

1. Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless

With over 7 million views at the time of writing, this video will have already done some serious damage to the Abercrombie & Fitch brand. The skill of this video is in how the makers have managed to use humour to effect, at the same time as communicating a really valuable message (about the greed and selfishness of someone with a lot of wealth). The call to action is clear and gives the audience a tangible way to do something about how the video has made them feel.

2. Kony 2012

Despite the controversy around this video, the wider success around this viral video as an online campaign video can’t be denied. At time of writing, it has had over 97 million views and over one million likes on YouTube.

The strength of this video is in terms of its storytelling. It is a whole 28 minutes long but is entirely engaging. There are three layers to the story. We are told about the ‘I’ (the main character), the ‘we’ (the wider community of people who are involved with the campaign or should be) and finally about the ‘now’ (the challenge of the present moment). The video certainly worked in the sense that it went viral.

However, the money raised didn’t match the number of times it was watched (less than a dime per person who viewed it supposedly).

3. McDonald's Food After Three Months - McDonald's Food Review

Video couldn’t be more ideal for an issue like this; visual evidence of what the video maker is trying to convey can be presented as though his audience are sat across the table from him. The damage that a video like this can do to any food establishment is massive.

4. Nick Clegg translated to HONEST

Nick Clegg thought it would be a good idea to use online video as a way to apologise to students for going back on his promise to not support a rise in tuition fees. This backfired and a number of ‘remixes’ and other spoofs were produced by students across the UK and uploaded to YouTube.

This one is my favourite. A simple idea, which is relatively easy to execute, but it makes the point powerfully. The use of subtitles to offer another interpretation of the apology was genius.

5. Who gives a crap

The guys behind this video used humour around a taboo topic to bring audience attention to an important cause. This video was part of their Indiegogo campaign to raise money to get their business idea off the ground. They raised more than their goal and got a lot of positive press.


The cause or the message of a video is critical in terms of engaging people. You know a video has truly inspired its audience when it leads them to take action after watching. In the same breath, it is apparent that a poor video can quite easily render a good cause meaningless.

The big dream for anyone who makes a video like this is that it will affect some form of change; either people will join the cause to campaign for change, or the big companies will listen and do something to address the criticism. Some would argue that true democracy is here - the distribution platforms and social media networks are there for anyone to take advantage of… who are you going to take on with online video?

Author's avatar

By Neil Davidson

Neil Davidson is the Founder of MWP Digital Media, a leading Corporate Video Production Company. He also runs My Web Presenters who specialise in creating video spokesperson videos. They work with businesses of all sizes to create and market compelling and emotive videos that get specific and clear results. If you would like to have a conversation about how to create video for the web then please  contact Neil here.

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online video

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