'Kony 2012': Guerrilla Marketing

How a San Diego nonprofit turned the hunt for a warlord into a marketing sensation
Left, L.R.A. leader Joseph Kony in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 Kony: Stephane Lehr/Polaris; Photo illustration by 731; Rally: Invisible Children

When Ben Keesey learned how many people were watching his video, he thought YouTube was broken. It was March 5, and Invisible Children, the nonprofit of which he is chief executive officer, had just launched Kony 2012, a 30-minute documentary about Joseph Kony, the African warlord who’s been kidnapping and killing people for more than 20 years. Keesey, 29, checked YouTube the morning of the debut; the video had 50,000 views—a healthy number. Soon, tens of thousands of people were commenting—and the number kept growing. “YouTube doesn’t refresh its numbers immediately,” he says. “So we didn’t know how many people were watching it, but we could tell from the comments that it was taking off.”

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