They all follow the same format - an anonymous video, supposedly amateur, of an incredible act or experience appears online. Once a buzz has been created, the so-thought home-made footage turns out to be an advert. A successful marketing strategy indeed, but does it meet ethical standards?
The faux-amateur video has become an essential technique for advertisers. The bigger it is, the more web users fall for it. The latest to date is a clip showing a group of young people cooking popcorn with the radiation from a couple of ringing mobile phones. The video received over 10 million hits in ten days on YouTube, but the majority of its audience thought it was real.
Rumours soon followed that mobile phones were highly dangerous. When news came out that the scene had been faked, it was too late to completely eradicate the initial panic. The affair clearly demonstrates the dangers of viral publicity. Not only is it easy it is to start false rumours, but also to weaken the public trust in the internet, which is seen more than ever as a media fuelled by gossip.
The original faux-amateur video. There were four versions made: English, American, French and Japanese.
Ten days after the original was released, this part of the commercial was added on (this is the US version).
Frédéric Chast is the creator behind the popcorn ads. He's the founder, owner, and sole worker of the advertising agency LastFools, which he created in order to sell the mobile- popcorn-cooking idea.
After ten days 10 million people had already seen the ad so we revealed the source, which is pretty quick. We didn't anticipate it to be such a hit, or that people wouldn't believe it was fake. But we've tried our hardest to get the message out that it's not real. We are advertisers after all, so of course we want to reveal our source. We've now spent about a month explaining that the video was false, but there are some people who we can't seem to reach.
My client [Cargo] is very happy anyway. It's just advertising, and the campaign worked. Let's face it; I'm not trying to convince anyone to invade Iraq. If you want me to feel guilty then ask Colin Powell first. I just want to make people laugh; do something original; get away from these boring ads for lingerie and food. I value creativity more than ethics. I want to show people something new. I'm about as dangerous as Eminen. Well, for the people. For the status quo and the traditional establishment, I guess I'm pretty risky."
Bertrand Simon is a communications professor specialised in online media and a consultant on public opinion.
This would not be allowed on TV. There's more freedom with web advertising, which many agencies are taking advantage of. There is a small possibility of introducing legislation against this, and the EU is trying to take a little control over the internet. But I don't think laws should be necessary. It should be a case of the agencies taking responsibility and some light regulation."
An ad for Gatorade, an energy drink in the US.
For Timur Bekmambetov's latest film.
Nike by basketball player Kobe Bryant.
For Levis. The video's not really amateur, but is the performance real?