One of the most popular ways for brands to reach huge audiences with online video is to create a clip that begs the question, "Was that real or fake?" When an event in a video is so amazing and so unbelievable that audiences aren't sure whether or not they can believe it, then the brand has reached viral nirvana. Audience members are far more likely to share videos like these with friends, regardless of which side of the debate they land on.
This isn't a new trick. It's been going on almost as long as YouTube has existed. Heck this is what magicians have been doing for decades--show us a stunt or a "trick" that we know in our hearts is probably faked, but do it in a way that feels as real as possible... and you maximize audience interest by stirring up debate.
Microsoft reached huge numbers of viewers with their long-distance water slide video, which ultimately was faked. Gillette got millions of views when they had Roger Federer do some tennis tricks--which were also fake. Let's not forget the Head Blade shaving helmet and the iPhone that controls the Times Square video screens--both were fake, and actually from the same creative agency (thinkmodo).
The reason brands love this approach to viral marketing is that it gets fans talking. It stirs up debate, discussion, and even passion. And those things are fantastic triggers for sharing behavior, as believers and skeptics alike begin forwarding the video to friends for confirmation of their opinions. This can often result in high brand awareness and tons of free publicity--at least, when the video is executed well.
The Latest Faked Viral Video
Today we have a new viral hit that's causing fans to wonder whether it's real or fake, and this one's from Pepsi. The only problem is... no one is buying that it's real. Taking a cue from Gillette, Pepsi has opted to create an ad showing one of their athlete spokesman, David Beckham, executing some amazing soccer shots on the beach. Take a look:
There are many things wrong with this fake:
Overzealous audio. The audio is too clear. If those trash bins are as far away as they look, we shouldn't hear them rattle that much when the ball goes in.
Poor editing. The third kick actually changes direction mid-air (and off camera). It starts out clearly heading wide left, but then when the ball comes back down it is magically back on the right trajectory.
Too well shot. The footage is entirely too nice. It's too crisp and clean and... high quality. That tells the audience to be suspicious right from the start--most of the best faked viral hits have featured footage that is handheld or feels otherwise "behind the scenes." This feels too professional.
Bad acting. I'm not buying much of any of this, from an acting standpoint. If Beckham really hit all three of those shots, he would probably not be so nonchalant about it. But Beckham aside, it's the way-too-enthusiastic cheers of the nearby spectators that prove to me this clip is fake.
Too unbelievable. If I told you Roger Federer was a good enough aim that he could knock a can off your head from 100 feet away... you might believe that. But if I told you he could do it three times in a row without missing? That would be harder to swallow. Pepsi went too far here in giving us three shots in a row. It's too much of a good thing, and it sets off red flags in our "reality sensors." The best basketball free-throw shooters in the world don't hit 100% of their foul shots, and they're only a few feet away... using their hands. And we're to believe that Beckham is perfect... from much further away... with his feet? I don't think so.
Ultimately, it doesn't really even matter that the Pepsi fake is so poorly made. The joke's on us... they're already over a million views in just three days. And yes, there are commenters on YouTube that swear it's real, but the overwhelming majority of viewers aren't fooled. But they still watched. At the end of the day, Pepsi still got their free publicity and extra exposure. And producing a poorly-made fake viral video isn't the kind of "sin" that consumers are likely to hold against a brand when it comes time to make a purchase.
No wonder faked viral videos are all the rage right now. It doesn't even need to be very convincing in order for it to go viral.