This is just awesome. The Facebook tattoo video, which I wrote about here yesterday as part of a "videos that become news" article, turns out to be an elaborate fake. A viral marketing video. It's nothing but a hoax. And what a wonderful hoax it was--and successful! The video has 1.6 million views as of this writing, and it's barely a week old. 

The Facebook Tattoo Video Hoax

It's been revealed that the tattoo wasn't actually permanent, but rather it was some kind of temporary thing that disappears after a few days--no doubt it's already gone. The tattoo artist, Dex Moelker, will surely get a higher profile from this whole thing, though I have so little knowledge of that industry that I can't say how much it will mean to her in terms of profit or new customers.

No, the real "advertiser" here is Pretty Social. Who's that, you ask? Well, they're a company that lets you buy gifts and trinkets printed with... wait for it... your Facebook friends' faces. In the original video, the company is specifically thanked, and they're listed as the "tattoo designer" in the video's description.

Here's the original clip in case you missed it:

Why Did The Hoax Work?

Viral hoax videos work best when they are squarely on the line between being incredible and being hard to believe. On the one hand, most viewers were critical of the girl, having a hard time understanding why anyone would get such a silly tattoo--and such a big one, covering the entire arm. On the other hand, the clip is completely believable, because honestly... people tattoo unthinkably weird crap on their bodies every day.

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Have you ever seen one of those tattoo-parlor reality shows on cable? Watch just one episode and you'll realize that there's very little limit to what some people are willing to permanently ink on their bodies. There are entire Tumblr sites devoted to photos of ridiculous tattoos. So ultimately, even though viewers largely thought this woman was crazy, they didn't have any trouble buying the fact that the tattoo was real.

Over the past few days, the video has received hundreds and hundreds of mentions on mainstream news sites, blogs, and everything in between. It fooled nearly everyone, and it did so because it was a perfectly executed concept intended to be believable and unbelievable all at the same time. In the end, for relatively little cost, Pretty Social was able to use an extreme example to demonstrate their service, and got it in front of the eyes of millions. That kind of thing could put a business on the map, no?

  • Kara Rowe

    what a great & logical concept! Thank you for the idea!

  • Patrick Allmond

    The word fantastic or brilliant does apply here. I am so tired of people bullshitting me to sell something or generate awareness. It is getting to the point where I don't believe most of the 'amazing' things that people send me on the internet anymore. 

    More at ...

  • Maggie Burkell

    I think it was an excellent marketing stategy! Who cares that it isn't permanent? The results certainly are... as evidenced by the 2,313,597 views on YouTube!

  • Ronnie Bincer

    I'm missing the point here... what makes this a hoax? Is it because the tattoo was not permanent? If so, who cares? There will be plenty of folks that decide to tattoo their friend's from FB on their arms now, and wasn't gaining views on a concept really the goal here?

    Is it real? Why do we ask anymore? Are special effects in movies real? We still watch them don't we? It generated buzz, got people sharing the video, brought a concept to "top of mind" - helped branding with Facebook, --- it worked!

  • kuram

    The hoax viral videos will die out very soon. I for one really gets pissed if I was just lied too to get me interested and then later on it was revealed it wasn't true. Sure you made me watch it, but I don't like your brand anymore. This is similar to the fine print, which rubs people off the wrong way and in fact create bad word of mouth.

  • timdanyo

    It's low minded. I'm tired of it. In the offline world, what happens when a friend of yours pranks you? Do you trust them more? Are you apt to get them back? Fooling people makes them trust you less and they get you back (not in a good way, because then the joke is always on the one who tricked first!) 

  • John A Weaver

    While I agree that this was a wonderfully executed viral video, I wonder how long companies can keep up the tactic of fooling audiences with faked concepts? Nowadays it seems that ANY extraordinary video is immediately deemed to be fake because, all to often, they are, and we are conditioned to think so. For example, I don't think there's any credibility left in 'amazing athlete performances' outside of an actual broadcast game.

    So congrats to Pretty Social - they got what they wanted. I can't help but feel a little cheated myself - I want to believe that someone was stupid enough to really get a full sleeve of their Facebook friends. That's why I shared it in the first place, right?

    • JeremyScott

      I definitely think this trend will eventually wear out its welcome with most viewers. I just don't think it's there yet, though I certainly understand those who feel cheated. I think there are still a lot of viewers who enjoy a good prank. Maybe I'm wrong.

      Several of the companies that have gone this route have reported a sales increase, if you believe them, I suppose.