Over the weekend, astute PR observer Jennifer Van Grove took to Mashable (with a HT to the Chicago Tribune) to speculate on the authenticity of a video “fast approaching viral status.” Said video, shot on the streets of New York City, shows a wayward wrecking ball broadsiding a Dodge Minivan, flipping it on its side. In the caption, it’s noted that the driver “escaped with only minor injuries.”
Now this is not the first time, now will it be the last, that a big-branded marketer has turned to the miracle of video mixing to auto-generate some buzz. Who can forget Nike’s spot showing Kobe Bryant vertically leaping over an oncoming Aston Martin:
It’s clear: both videos are fake. Ms. Van Grove rightly asks why we didn’t see any NYC media coverage of the flipped Minivan. I suppose the more important question is whether the marketers behind these news-like productions are obligated to reveal their association. Granted, such a reveal might put the skids on the videos’ ability to go viral and become mediable, defeating their intended purpose.
As the FTC grapples with full disclosure and consumer deception, shouldn’t we as PR professionals insist on identifying the sponsors of the content we release, feed, or post publicly on our clients’ behalf? How is a video posted on YouTube different from one we’d distribute via satellite for local broadcast news consumption?