Home Fake Viral Videos: Is This Good Marketing?

Fake Viral Videos: Is This Good Marketing?

A pretty blonde woman nervously stares at the camera and begins speaking. “I’m not a stalker, I’m not crazy,” she says. She then earnestly tells a story about meeting a guy in a cafe and chatting him up before he took off – leaving his jacket behind. She then apparently decided to use YouTube to help her track down her modern-day Prince Charming. A heartwarming story? Sure. Except for one problem: it was all a hoax.

This wasn’t a hoax put on by the blonde girl herself (real name Heidi Hardy). Although it would have been mildly interesting if she had turned out to be some attention-starved faker, that was not the case. Instead, Heidi was a model/actress hired for a campaign led by marketing group Naked Communications. The product being slyly sold was menswear – just like the jacket she claimed belonged to her mystery man.

Going by the numbers, the campaign was a success. Within four days, more than 60,000 people had watched the video. Today, the number of views is over 150,000. But did the hoax actually help the company market their product? Or did it just leave people with a bad taste in their mouth after being taken in by the hoax?

We’re Always Wondering: Is it Fake?

When it comes to fake viral videos, an Australian retail company isn’t  by any means the first to pull one over on us. More recently, one of the hottest viral videos out there was “Bike Hero,” a daring reinterpretation of the video game “Guitar Hero,” but played out on the streets using a bike instead of a guitar. The stunt was impressive and elaborate, so the video drew a lot of views. The viewing stats at the time of writing show that this video has been watched over 1.9 million times. Yet it too, was a marketing hoax.

Designed by Droga5, an ad agency, and a production company called Smuggler, “Bike Hero” was just a part of the team’s marketing efforts on behalf of their client, Guitar Hero World Tour. The video’s credits apparently included a CG artist, a CG supervisor, and an animation supervisor in addition to several visual effect specialists. In other words, it wasn’t real.

In fact, several of the biggest viral videos aren’t real: popping popcorn using your cell phone? An ad for cell phones. The office rampage? A teaser for a new movie. The Wii Fit underwear girl? Well, that one’s a maybe, but the signs don’t look good: the boyfriend in the video works as director of interactive media for Tinsley Advertising in Miami, Florida.

Are Hoaxes Good Marketing?

At best, hoaxes end up leaving you disappointed, at worst, angry. Are those actually the types of feelings marketers want you to associate with the products they’re selling?  Although clever, fake viral videos may not be the best idea for companies.

When you find out that a video is a hoax put out by a marketing agency, are you turned off? Does your perception of the product change too? Or is half the fun trying to spot the real videos from the fakes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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