Branded Hoax Viral Videos Are Becoming A Cottage Industry

Branded Hoax Viral Videos Are Becoming A Cottage Industry

First there were the ad agencies—big brands paid them to dream up marketing creative for everything from print to radio to television. Then came the niche agencies designed to help just with the emerging media market of online videos. And now that most of the major U.S. brands are regularly creating video content for the web, we're seeing the birth of a new kind of creative agency: the hoax-video agency.

Yes, brands both big and small are finding a lot of viral value in staged videos—specifically, clips that appear to be unbranded, and that show viewers something amazing or hard to believe. It's a softer form of branded advertising, and one that seeks to leave a more subtle impression on the audience.

By creating a clip that makes the audience ask, "Was that real, or fake?" companies are able to receive far more viral action than a traditional advertisement can. The controversy around the video's authenticity drives more social and sharing behavior, which, in turn, drives up the view counts.

With a typical branded hoax video, the brand eventually "outs" itself as the perpetrator of the fake at a pre-established point in time. The hope is that the public was more entertained by the hoax than offended or annoyed by it. If so, they will associate your brand with the positive online video experience. That's the idea, anyway. It's a new enough field that there aren't exactly text-books for this sort of marketing.

But there are experts. A group out of New York called thinkmodowho we profiled several months ago—has scored a series of branded hoax video campaigns, including the HeadBlade "shaving helmet" and the iPhone-controls-Times-Square-screens fake promoting the movie Limitless. And last week, they scored another, with a nude gaming party video that dug up all kinds of press mentions and publicity for the client.

That client? XtendPlay, the makers of a foam video game controller accessory that is more comfortable and ergonomic than just using a controller alone. The hoax? To create a video that makes viewers believe there are a growing number of secret nude video gaming parties, where all participants play while naked:

Of course, there are no such nude gaming parties, but that didn't stop viewers and webmasters from being entertained enough by the idea to pass it along... the concept was too irresistible. The video saw press on Cnet, Kotaku, Gothamist, and even the New York Daily News, as well as hundreds of other blogs and news sites, driving the video to nearly a million views in a week—not to mention all the links they racked up. Traffic is up significantly to the XtendPlay website, though I'm sure the final decision on this campaign's success or failure will, for them, have more to do with how sales are looking a few months from now.

Big brands are taking this same approach—see Gilette's viral hoax video with Roger Federer, or Pepsi's fake-out starring David Beckham—but so far, thinkmodo appears to be the only online video creative agency focusing on hoax videos. I have no doubt there will be others.

These kinds of videos invite controversy between those who believe the contents are real and those who believe they are faked. That controversy drives sharing behavior in ways a standard video (even an entertaining one) ever could. No wonder brands are such big fans.

About the Author -
Jeremy Scott is the founder of The Viral Orchard, an Internet marketing firm offering content writing and development services, viral marketing consulting, and SEO services. Jeremy writes constantly, loves online video, and enjoys helping small businesses succeed in any way he can. View All Posts By -

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  • http://www.londoncopywriter.co.uk Freelance Copywriter

    Interesting. I wasn't aware that branded hoaxes were on the increase. Did you see the following one, from last year, for Hi Tec shoes (it's got almost 10m hits): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe3St1GgoHQ