If you hadn't heard, there's a new Planet of the Apes movie coming out this year. I know, I know... I'm just as surprised as you are that the studio went ahead with it after the debacle that was Tim Burton's version. And yet, it exists. It's called Rise of the Planet of the Apes, stars it-actor of the moment James Franco, and comes out on August 5 of this year.

And in advance of the release, the studio is having a little fun with online video--specifically hoax videos. Like this clip of a group of African soldiers giving an AK-47 to a monkey:

Now, let's talk about what works and what falls flat in this piece of social video marketing, shall we?

Why The Hoax Video Works

First of all, just look at the comments. I certainly haven't read all 11,000 of them, but far more than half of the ones I have read appear to be from people fooled by the hoax--people who seem to believe the video is authentic and legit.

And it's very well put together. Everything about the video feels authentic, in terms of the actual action. The soldiers don't look like actors, and their costumes look real. Nothing feels forced or over the top--at least until the monkey starts shooting.

And even when he starts shooting, the special effects work is outstanding. It does not look like some kid with After Effects out to fool the world. Even the shaky-cam footage feels genuine, particularly after the shooting starts and the "camera man" is forced to take cover.

Why The Hoax Video Doesn't Work

While there are many things this video gets right that most branded hoax videos get wrong, there are still some things I wish they'd done differently to really sell the fake. For instance, they tip their hand too many times. Specifically, the video was uploaded to a channel called Apes Will Rise. They're not even remotely hiding the connection to the movie with a channel name like that. I'm surprised they didn't just name the channel "New Planet Of The Apes Movie." This is the same channel, by the way, where all the official trailers for the film have been uploaded, so again... no attempt to disguise the source.

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The video also starts out with some text that suggests we're about to see some kind of lost military footage--which should be a red flag to any movie-lover that Hollywood is involved.

There's also a title at the bottom left of the video screen that says "20th Century Fox Research Library." Corny.


I can hear you now: "Maybe they weren't trying to actually fool people into thinking it's real?"

And I suppose maybe that's the case. Maybe they wanted the clip associated with the film in order to make sure it actually drove awareness and ticket sales? And while that's possible, it makes me wonder why they worked so hard in some areas to make the fake appear real, only to flat-out quit trying in other areas.

If it were me, I'd have advised them to use another channel. I'd have removed the text on the video--both the military stuff and the 20th Century Research crap. If they'd have done those things, the video would likely have fooled almost everyone. And then, a week before the film comes out, you out yourselves as the masterminds of the hoax, and everyone has a good laugh.

Of course, the number of branded hoax videos has been climbing lately, and many viewers are getting turned off to the idea of being fooled by a big company. Maybe ultimately what 20th Century has done here is straddle the line between hoax and ad perfectly? Even with the giveaways I mentioned, many viewers are still convinced it's real... and anyone skeptical enough to cry "hoax" won't feel cheated or fooled since there are so many telltale signs of viral marketing.

What do you think? Are hoax videos played out or just getting started? Is there any reason to believe this Planet of the Apes movie will be any good? What would a real chimpanzee do with an AK-47?

Regardless, here's the trailer for the film, which probably helps you decide if you want to see it more than the hoax video did:

  • Sean Lightell

    I've watched the video thousands of times, because at first
    I thought it was a hoax, but over time, I saw that it wasn’t. The ape's head
    movement isn't fluid like a computer designed animation and its eyes and head
    turn to whoever is making the quickest movement, an ape's instinctive action.
    The video quality of the ape is exactly the same as the video quality of the
    West African soldiers. My father is a Desert Storm vet and he confirmed the
    speed and timing of the soldiers’ reactions and the ape’s action and reaction
    to the firing of the AK as the real thing. Most often chimps can imitate the
    action of humans and understand of the reason or feeling of the person when the
    action is committed, that explains why the ape held the weapon above his head.
    Also, the “note” you said you saw that claimed what you were about to see must
    have been inserted from someone who ‘photo shopped’ the video to insert their
    “comment.” I did notice the "20th Century Fox Research Library," but
    the big company might have claimed, so to speak, the video and documented it
    into their library before releasing it.

  • Dave Kalin

    I got this vid off of the share drive at work here in Afghansitan. It's got no vid titles. I guess they were cut off. I watched it and laughed like crazy. I've seen people do similar things in crazy parts of the world. So, it's not THAT far fetched of an idea that this could and probably has happened in real life.

  • Jamie

    Why the Hoax Video did work: it's got nearly 5 million views. No one is upset at having the wool pulled over their eyes. The hoax video didn't make sense until I saw the trailer. I then realized how perfectly related they were which then made the hoax video seem that much more brilliant. I believe hoax videos are here to stay but not from professional companies, unless they can find a way to do it without upsetting potential customers and likewise sales.