There are numerous pranks and all sorts of tomfoolery going on in the world of YouTube.  And brands can do things they normally can't do on a normal ad, like make it longer, or have bleeped/unbleeped swears, or in general content they could not otherwise do on TV.  I watched Pepsi MAX's ad featuring Jeff Gordon where Gordon puts on a disguise and pretends to be a naive car shopper who inevitably takes the car salesman down that long and winding road to Hades by driving a Camaro in a reckless fashion, scaring the living daylights out of the guy and creating viral momentum.

But If It's Fake, Does It Work?

I guess the point of any ad really is brand awareness, right?  And with this ad, they at the very least get that accomplished:

But the problem is, there is far too much legal wrangling that would have to be a part of an ad like this.  Gordon is tearing through a fairly obvious closed course, but to have the salesman not know what he's in for would be irresponsible because of medical issues: likelihood of having a heart attack is a big one.  The other thing is, yeah, Gordon is an incredibly skilled race car driver, but what if something happens during the drive where someone got hurt?  Mistakes happen all the time.  It would be a disaster for a company like Pepsi to put someone even in the slightest bit of harm's way without their knowledge and if they get hurt or killed, then there is a huge legal mess after that which destroys the brand name.

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But the question is...even if it's fake, does it take away from the entertainment value, or prevent the brand from achieving the ultimate end of the ad, which is to remind people Pepsi MAX is a thing?  I think this ad does exactly what it's supposed to do.  Many people think it's real, and that's great for Pepsi.  The people who think it's fake, will talk about how fake it is (like I'm doing now...I'm basically giving Pepsi free pub right now).  And there will always be variations like, people who think it's real still think it's a horrible ad, people who think it's fake might still love it.

This ad has traits along the lines of an earlier viral hit towards the end of last year:

That it might be real would be amazing.  When you find out it's fake, is it so amazing anymore?

I give kudos to the Pepsi ad for at least putting in the tiny details that make it look like it might be real, and in the end, it's still kind of funny to see a guy put through the wringer like that even if I feel he's in on it.

  • Kevin Nalts Nalty

    It's a cute vid. But it's hard for me to watch a fake reaction to a prank. It's quite easy to detect (never mind the production quality and the multiple car tracks). So it gets a B minus.

  • Chris Ripley

    I saw the video last night on the AdAge site. I'm a NASCAR fan and a marketer. I laughed my ass off and found it at first to be real. I started to doubt its reality when they come to the toll booth and Gordon does the u-turn. I remember driving shotgun in a late-model sportsman stock car at Langley Speedway in Hampton VA feeling like the guy riding shotgun with Gordon. While I'm not going to load up on Pepsi after seeing this I do think they did a nice job. They had me for a good while.

  • Dan Safkow

    We live In a world where scripted "reality" TV shows and professional wrestling have huge followings. Consumers consume, without analyzing or filtering.

  • Kathryn Pasternak

    In these days of heavily scripted "so called" reality TV shows, this dialogue over the pepsi ad brings to mind just how much the blurring of lines between traditional documentary films and fake reality TV, not to mention the sometimes very crafty manipulations of online video clips has messed with people's heads. Still, I just don't know how anyone could think this is "real." I don't have time to analyze the shots, but I'm sure that there were many takes, multiple cameras, a large crew, actors, extras, etc, and the "hidden camera documentary" quality is completely designed. Is it memorable? Yes. And so I'd say it's successful. Is it responsible? No more or less than so much other crap out there. For anyone without a brain or delusions of race car driver stardom, it could use the addition of "Don't try this at home." I'm an occasional diet Coke drinker and won't change to Pepsi because of this ad. But next time I'm somewhere that doesn't sell diet coke and I get pepsi instead? I'll think of this ad and chuckle to myself, enjoying my pepsi just a little bit more.

  • Marilyn Kay

    This ad tries too hard to be clever and viral. I must admit I don't drink Pepsi, so i'm admitting my bias. I can see where the trick driving and scared guy could appeal to guys, but it leaves me cold and asking what's the point?

  • Duane Arthur Weed

    Entertainment - still will not get me drink or buy the product. I laughed and was entertained. And yes, it got people talking and sharing. Hence is worked. Free pub all around. Good Marketing

  • Sonia Sobiech

    Didn't watch it till the end. I might not be a good judge, because of my political beliefs (anti-corporate), but... When coca-cola released security cameras video I have watched it till the end and I was concerned, that yet another talented adman is supporting consumption of bad drink produced by irresponsible, cruel entity. This pepsi piece though... I'm not that concerned. Obviously fake. If someone didn't catch it right away maybe at least they will think: "wow, that's not cool pepsi - this man could suffer a heart attack"