CAN WE EVER FORGIVE THE VIRAL ADS THAT FOOL US INTO BELIEVING THEY’RE REAL?

Or is it that simple? A few weeks ago a viral video, entitled First Kiss popped up on the Internet. This sweet little film featured a group of 20 strangers kissing each other for the first time. The viral, which has now amassed over 78 million views on YouTube alone, shows each of the 10 couples giggling and chattering nervously as they prepare themselves to lock lips with a total stranger on camera. It is this very human reaction that people seemed to empathise with, relating to both the initial awkwardness and the resulting intimacy of this tender moment of mutual connection.

It wasn’t long however, until blogs and news websites were abuzz with the scandalous revelation that this supposedly artful video, was in fact a sneaky advertisement for the fall collection of the little-known clothing label, WREN. And instead of featuring “real people” the cast was actually made up of mostly models and actors. The overwhelming reaction to this turn of events was heated to say the least, with many labelling the piece a “fake” and claiming to feel both cheated and manipulated by the brand and the filmmaker.

Somewhat ironically, it would appear that this was the last thing the brand or the filmmaker, Tatia Pilieva had either planned or anticipated for their video. As Pilieva points out, this was a very low budget film that was quite clearly branded with “WREN presents” at the beginning and credited both the brand and the entire cast of actors and models at the end. The video was commissioned by WREN founder and creative director Melissa Coker to showcase her new collection for Style.com’s Video Fashion Week and it was apparently only when the film was passed on to a small number of Ms Pilieva’s friends via email that the viral grew legs. So, no big conspiracy, just a great idea and a bit of luck.

This leaves one to wonder, what is everyone is so peeved about? Sure there were models and actors cast in the video – it was a clothing ad after all – but who can honestly say they would have actually preferred to see two “normal” looking people pawing at each other, instead of a pair of beautiful, mysterious strangers?

Another high profile hoax that took a lot of heat in the last number of weeks was a far-fetched product teaser for a newly invented hooverboard. The video claimed to have finally made the fictional hooverboard from the 1989 film, Back to the Future a reality. This extremely elaborate production went to great lengths to emphasise that the “HUVr Board” – as it was named – was not a hoax. Going as far as stating at the beginning of the film that, “The following demonstrations are completely real”. The producers even called in a team of celebrities to back up the claim, including musician, Moby, skateboarding legend, Tony Hawk and Back to the Future star, Christopher Lloyd. Of course, the more cynical amongst us almost immediately figured this was too good to be true. Yet the one thing no one could figure out was, what was the point of the whole thing? Was it a teaser for the much rumoured, Back to the Future sequel? Or perhaps a new Tony Hawk skateboarding video game? Unfortunately, no. As it turns out, the video was purely a publicity stunt for the comedy website, Funny or Die – how disappointing.

Even those that weren’t diehard Back to the Future fans felt let down by this turn of events. So much so, that Funny or Die published a second video featuring Christopher Lloyd again, this time apologising unreservedly for his “innocent” participation in the hoax, and offering up a consolation prize of a signed HUVr Board prop for one lucky commentator on Funny or Die’s Facebook page. Again, the more cynical amongst us will also figure that this was probably planned in advance, but with over 44,000 Facebook comments and 13 million YouTube views, I think Funny or Die are the ones having the last laugh.

Combine that with the massive bump in sales for WREN after the release of First Kiss, and you can begin to notice a trend. You realise that it doesn’t really matter whether a viral video is fake or real. All that matters is that it goes viral. Because in reality, our forgiveness is immaterial, at the end of the day anything that manages to capture the imagination of the Internet watching public is worth its weight in Bitcoin. After all, as the old saying goes, “All publicity is good publicity”, even if it does take us all a little while to figure out exactly what it is these covert advertisers are trying to publicise in the first place…

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