Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Celebs issue a monthlong call to action on Myanmar

Aaron Hughes said the campaign
designed by
Digital Influence Group
was meant to raise the awareness
of conditions in Myanmar.

When Digital Influence Group was enlisted to craft a Web-based social media campaign to spread awareness about the political situation in Myanmar, the Waltham-based marketing firm enlisted the perhaps unlikely help of celebrities Jennifer Aniston, Will Ferrell and Kim Kardashian.

Last year Digital Influence Group crafted a branding and grass-roots educational campaign for client and social media shopping site Fanista titled “Burma: It Can’t Wait: 30 Days for a Million Voices” that featured short celebrity videos as the touchpoint of the effort. The Web site won an award from the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange for best use of social media.

The May 2008 campaign featured a landing page at Over a stark image of Myanmar people flash the words “liberty, democracy, human rights, hope” before viewers go to a cache of videos. Each day in May, visitors to the site could watch a new short video featuring celebrities discussing the situation in Myanmar (formerly Burma), whose military regime has been universally censured for human rights abuses.

Ferrell’s video kicked off the online effort and featured the comedian describing the purpose of the grass-roots campaign. “A human rights crisis is happening right now in the Southeast Asian country of Burma. It’s been going on for decades,” Ferrell said. “Today we’re launching a 30-day campaign in support of human rights and democracy in Burma. Over the next 30 days you’ll hear from musicians, actors, filmmakers, activists ... about the Burmese fight for freedom.”

While Ferrell’s video was somber, many of the celebrity videos were humorous or tongue-in-cheek while still drawing attention to the cause. Comedian Jim Carrey was featured in a serious clip talking about the need to free Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been under house arrest by Myanmar’s military regime for 11 years.

“The goal was to raise awareness of what’s going on in Burma,” said Aaron Hughes, senior vice president and creative director at Digital Influence Group. “The strategy was to sign up celebrities to create video content ... and to take those video assets and use social media marketing to make a larger distribution.”

Digital Influence Group used Facebook to get the word out about the effort and distributed its 33 celebrity videos on YouTube and five other video distribution sites. The company also embedded videos in more than 100 blogs.

Results of the effort included more than 3.5 million views of the celebrity videos, as well as widespread media coverage of the campaign in publications such as The New York Times, E! Online and Newsweek.

Lisa van der Pool can be reached at

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