If you're an avid follower of viral videos like I am, you probably got fooled again this week by the new zen masters of staged viral videos: thinkmodo. Thinkmodo, out of New York, has created similar "hoax" video campaigns for numerous other brands--you might remember their Times Square Hack video promoting the Hollywood film Limitless.
In fact, that Limitless campaign went so well, Hollywood came calling again.
Hoax Viral Video Campaign For Justin Timberlake's "In Time"
The hoax video, released only three days ago, already has half a million views, and its one of the best fakes I've seen in terms of authentic camera work and feel. It purports to be shot by an eyewitness in a cab, who passes by a confrontation between a police officer and some construction workers. Seems the construction guys don't feel they deserve a ticket:
While some in the comments have been debating the video's authenticity, most appear to have believed it was real--the only possible tip-off is how perfectly the taxi stops and holds its position just long enough for the "eyewitness" to capture the crazy event.
Of course, that "eyewitness" was none other than thinkmodo co-founder, Michael Krivicka. Because the video is a piece of viral marketing staged to promote the upcoming film, In Time, which stars Justin Timberlake.
Hollywood & Viral Marketing Hoaxes Go Hand In Hand
Thinkmodo is serious about creating great videos that engage viewers and get audiences talking, but I love how they're not above stepping in to fill a necessary role themselves when they can, like "camera man." The rest of the video's stars? Extras and actors. The construction outfits, if you look closely, match the outfits worn by characters in the movie and were shipped directly courtesy of the film's studio, 20th Century Fox.
The police woman's outfit and the police vehicle were both rented, and the crew had to shoot on a closed street set so they wouldn't get caught filming and ruin the hoax.
Krivicka says the studio couldn't have been more open to the concept, and remained enthusiastic and helpful throughout the project, which took around two months to complete. Hollywood studios make for great viral video advertising partners, he said, because the industry is used to marketing by word of mouth. "Studios make movies, which are entertainment, so they are open to a lot of cool and edgy stuff. 20th Century Fox was super cool to work with. They mailed us the costumes for those two plumber characters which are the exact same costumes worn in the movie."
The second phase of the promotion kicked in last night, when Showbiz Tonight carried the exclusive on the reveal that the video was a hoax. Then, thinkmodo released a second version of the clip--this time with an extended ending:
If you've seen the trailer for In Time, which is set in the future, you'll know that the characters all sport digital clocks on their arms, just as our "eyewitness" does in the ending to the new extended clip--tying the movie's reality together with the video's reality in a pretty slick way.
Hoax Viral Video Campaigns Build Buzz
The goal? Just to get people talking about the movie... that's it, really, and if you think about it... Hollywood's been marketing by word of mouth pretty much since their inception. Krivicka says they'll look at a lot of data to determine if the campaign was a success--including view counts, publicity value, & media impressions--but at the end of the day, it's all about sparking conversation and buzz:
"What it comes down to is connecting the promoted brand with people. How well can you connect? Most of the time the mission is simple: 'get the word out' or 'create buzz'. It's reaching masses and creating brand awareness by using an engaging and innovative idea."
And people are certainly talking about this video... and sharing it... and debating it.
This type of thing is also a lot cheaper to market through a viral video campaign, at least when you craft it carefully. A 30-second spot on the Super Bowl--a favorite ad-buy of Hollywood for years--costs over $3 Million. And while there's a certain amount of proven effectiveness with that format, online video is proving to be just as capable of building buzz for a movie (if not more so), and at only a fraction of the cost.
If you haven't seen it, here's the official theatrical trailer for In Time: