Posted January 21, 2009 4:53 pm by with 4 comments

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With the rise in popularity of creating fake viral videos to promote products, we have to start wondering if they do more harm than good. This is a question Sarah Perez recently asked over on ReadWriteWeb.

Sarah presents the latest case of viral hoaxing, featuring a blonde woman claiming to be looking for the person she met in a cafe the other day. She establishes a connection with the viewer by talking about how she was drawn to him, but not in a creepy way. She is looking to return the jacket she left behind, and is asking for him to email her on the account she setup and gives out in the video.

The real purpose of the video is to create awareness for the jacket which is sold by the creator of the video, Witchery menswear.

To Sarah’s question, does a video like this hurt a company more than it helps? Certainly the successful videos are entertaining, and if marketed right, get a ton of exposure. But at what cost? Sarah suggests that it leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouth, hurting the reputation and integrity of the company. Sarah goes on to say:

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.

In the case of Witchery, I really don’t see how it is any different than the clothing and other forms of product placement in movies and TV shows. How upset could you really be at a company for something like that? Who cares if she actually met the guy or not, just as long as it’s interesting?

Do we really stop liking a particular product because a celebrity endorses it in a commercial? Possibly if it is Paris Hilton, but in most cases not at all. Do we really think they use the products? Absolutely not.

These hoax videos are a new creative way to sell products. Traditional marketing doesn’t have the same flair that it used to. If you want to make your product stand out, you need to do something original with it. If they had simply made a commercial with some dude wearing the jacket as he walked down the street with a bunch of models turning and giving him “the look,” we wouldn’t have said anything because we’ve seen that commercial a thousand times.

That’s just my opinion, what’s yours?

  • Yes, fake viral videos hurt more than they help if the true source of the video is passed off as a non-fiction event or member of the public. When they’re inevitably outed the best they can hope for is a smirk from a duped viewer, more often than not though the consumer feels betrayed.

    The difference with product placement and endorsements is that they are delivered in an overt way whereas a fake viral video is at best an advertorial.

  • Eric

    The old adage; Any publicity is good publicity.
    If we look at viral videos like TV commercials, you know advertising, they are all fake.

  • I never heard of before this video. Now I have. PR job accomplished in my opinion.

    If you are looking to go from no where to somewhere why not try one of these campaigns?

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Google Analytics Help, Questions, Answers Comments, Etc.

  • Fake anything in the mail or on videos or in viral campaigns just don’t work. Years ago, direct mail could get away with offers that were “too good to be true”.

    Now people are on to us. They want value, and honesty and authenticity. So fake migh work once…and then you lose your reputation forever.

    The beauty of the net is that we’re a small community now. We reivew stuff, we blog, we tell everything to everyone. So, this is all good!