Naked accused of ‘screwing’ the industry over girl-with-the-jacket fake

Strategy agency Naked has been keeping its head down all day after being named as the architect of a fake web site featuring a girl supposedly trying to find a man who left his jacket in a cafe.

The Sydney Morning Herald today said that Naked was behind the stunt, which had immediately raised suspicions of being a hoax, despite denials from the woman involved.

It became a news story over the weekend, when the girl – who said her name was Heidi Clarke – went public, claiming the man had left behind his jacket in a cafe and she wanted to give it back to him. There was also a web site, which has since been taken down, Hotmail adddress and YouTube video to go with it. But she spent so much time in the video extolling the virtues of the “really nice” jacket with its “beautiful silk lining” that it raised suspicions of being a publicity stunt inspired by a similar, genuine story a year ago in the US. In that case, a New Yorker created a web site to find a girl he met on the subway.

More suspicions were raised after it emerged that the jacket was from a forthcoming range by the fashion label Witchery. And it unravelled further after ninemsn had a tipoff that the woman has previously modelled for the brand.

However, the idea appears to have backfired, with most mainstream press going out of the way not to name the fashion brand.

The timing of the stunt was also unfortunate, virtually coinciding with a growing backlash against brands that use deceptive conduct, following Tourism Queensland’s video of a girl apparently getting a tattoo in order to win a holiday was shown to be faked.

Naked managing partner Mike Wilson this afternoon denied having any knowledge of the issue when Mumbrella spoke to him, although he claimed that it could have gone on at the agency without his knowledge. Unusually, his fellow managing partners Mat Baxter and Adam Ferrier both had their phones turned off all day. Witchery also did not return calls.

The debacle has drawn strong criticism from other Australian communications practitioners, who claim that along with the reef fake, the rows risk damaging the image of the industry as a whole.

Brendon Sinclair, of Queensland-based Tailored Web Services was among the most critical, saying:

“These clowns are screwing the Australian digital media landscape and giving everyone a bad name with their amateurish attempts at viral campaigns and use of social media. Here’s an idea I want to run past you people. Try, geeeez I don’t know… how about you try a little honesty? How about you actually engage your customers or market? How about you just be authentic? How about you get a clue?”


  1. Simon T Small
    20 Jan 09
    6:23 pm

  2. We don’t need to lie to people to get their attention in fact its the single thing we shouldn’t be doing.

    Naked are a thought and action leader in Aus, with transparency and authenticity to boot, I’m looking forward to finding out the story behind this one…

  3. Ellie
    20 Jan 09
    8:42 pm

  4. Personally, I believe that Simon T Small’s viewpoint is very small indeed, especially with saying, “Naked are a thought and action leader in Aus…”

    Do your ‘new’ advertising/ media people ever consider the unintended consequences of your campaigns or blurbs?

    As someone who has completed tertiary studies in advertising, psychology & education – and who works as a secondary school English teacher that regularly studies advertising campaigns with students, it would be easy to consign your advertisement (substandard attempt to persuade) to the depths of hell, (aka: the “least effective” list as opposed to the “most effective” list of advertising samples to use with female teenage- students).

    Notwithstanding the fact; I am also a consumer.

    As a regular holiday-taker, who frequently spent time at that particular “Island”…
    Well, they have simply lost my future business.

    Yet, with the “Jacket” story…
    I believe that could literally be “all in a day’s work” for me.

    Would I do that – legally?
    Probably not now that I’ve told you guys… But hey? As a consumer and someone who makes the decisions on what are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ persuasive campaigns in my classes on a regular basis – I believe that you people have clearly NOT looked at any of the unintended consequences.
    People just don’t like to ‘feel cheated.’

  5. jas
    20 Jan 09
    10:14 pm

  6. Do they think these things will just never be discovered? it shows pretty poor foresight to not think ahead to after its all been revealed.

    Will the thousands of people, including the press (hmmm) who were swept romantically up in this story be happy when it turns out its just to plug the jacket? of course not.. do we really have to con to advertise? how about entertaining?? For too long advertising has either shouted, bored or annoyed its audience.. now we’ve firmly added conning to the list. Lets get back to being entertaining and engaging people.

  7. wisey
    20 Jan 09
    11:07 pm

  8. That’s all good and a very fair assessment of the situation Mr Burrowes. That is, until, someone does the viral and the social media smoke+mirrors so good and it’s great.
    I am definitely a firm believer in advertising honesty, as well as advertising for the people. But, we’ve seen time and again that the standards we often uphold high can come crashing down when some advertising idea is so blissfully simple and brilliant.
    In Naked’s case, the idea is a fail from the onset because it just doesn’t seem to generate any interest or emotional pull to an outsider. A key component we see in many successful sites, videos and even advertising tactics that are forwarded through communities of today.

  9. Adam Ferrier
    20 Jan 09
    11:37 pm

  10. Tim,

    My phone was on all day . There are many themes to respond to within the above. Here are a few thoughts:
    1. Deception? Hmm not really sure if people feel they were deceived from such a campaign (we havent swindelled them out of millions, or indeed caused any harm to anyone we are aware of).
    2. Good communications should not interupt what people are enjoying doing, but instead contribute to what people like doing. Surprise / entertain / give them something to talk about??
    3. We are all for social media (and understand its power). We realise an experience shared is better than an experience had alone.
    4. Our campaigns and un/conventional communications get results for clients – and entertain and/or inform people.
    5. One of our most successful campaigns has been hypnomarketing for another clothing company – we pretended to hypnotise people to become brand advocates for the rest of their lives. Much more outrage – very very effective

    Thanks all for contributing in the campaign. Call me on 0413633344 with any further questions.

    Adam Ferrier

  11. Andrushka
    21 Jan 09
    12:20 am

  12. I think the campaign was pathetic. Naked/Witchey/the model should have all come clean when questioned and not just continued to lie in the hope it would sneak past the keeper. I think you’ll find that consumers hardly find it “entertaining” when a potentially heart-warming story turns out to be a deceptive advertising. And YES it was deceptive, because everyone involved denied it was a stunt until the game was up.

  13. Cheryl Gledhill
    21 Jan 09
    8:03 am

  14. Adam, in reponse to your comment

    “Deception? Hmm not really sure if people feel they were deceived from such a campaign ”

    According to the SMH article, “…several who dismissed it as fake. But Miss Clarke says she is sincere.”

    You don’t need to be swindled out of millions to be deceived. In fact, the definition of deception is “something that deceives or is intended to deceive; fraud; artifice.”

    What your campaign did was intended to deceive. It was fraudulent and the sole purpose was deceiving people into thinking it was real, to the point where Heidi lying about being sincere.

    In fact, sincere is defined as “free of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness;”

    Fine you guys might get great results for your clients, and this campaign might have been very effective for them. But don’t have the hypocrisy to claim that it wasn’t deceptive.

    You guys should really know the difference.

  15. Ben Haylock
    21 Jan 09
    8:05 am

  16. As this was finally unraveling yesterday, I took a few minutes to make my Ten Tips for your next “viral”.

    The danger with “making” a viral is you, the agency, always have to go “too far”: you need to add layers to what you are doing, so it’s not just a veneer. Because if it’s just only ever going to be a façade, why not just do a quirky straight-line campaign instead?



  17. jas
    21 Jan 09
    8:25 am

  18. I feel sorry for ‘Heidi’ I hope she got paid well, not only did she have to do the stills/ video shoot, but endless press calls from around the world in which she had to lie through her teeth about her job and the whole back story. Now she going to lose modelling / tv work and will always be the ‘Jacket girl’. And shes no doubt had to go into hiding for a while now. Hope they were honest about what she was in for in the initial casting.

  19. Chris
    21 Jan 09
    9:59 am

  20. There are stunts and then there are disasters – this was just a plain disaster…if you have to blatantly lie and compromise your integrity just to get a client results, well it’s really a question of ethics. To me, Naked, Witchery and the jacket girl have questionable ethics – pretty low stunt just to make a buck. I personally am considering boycotting Witchery…

  21. Mike
    21 Jan 09
    10:11 am

  22. Graeme Watson
    21 Jan 09
    10:20 am

  23. I’m not sure if it’s all that bad,

    People are fooled on the internet on a daily basis.

    I now know that Witchery makes men’s jackets – I didn’t know that before. I’m probably more tempted to look at one.

    The only false advertising claim Witchery may have made is that the jacket is soooo good, good looking models will pick it up and take it home. and this could still be true, has anyone bought one and left it lying around yet to test the hypothesis.

  24. Simon T Small
    21 Jan 09
    11:58 am

  25. After hearing more about this, Naked have really stuffed up, sorry guys, you went from being my favourite agency in Australia to somewhere near the bottom.

  26. Tobie
    21 Jan 09
    4:13 pm

  27. Why the witch hunt anyway? Brands have spent decade’s, nay centuries, developing cunning lies about product.

  28. Ellie
    23 Jan 09
    9:58 pm

  29. You know…?

    I’m thinking of designing my own t-shirt:

    “I’d rather this t than viral Witchery jackets !”

    or how about:

    “Eeeuuuw! Witchery are known to pass off virals…”

  30. Tony@TacticalTV
    27 Jan 09
    11:53 am

  31. Like Jas, I too feel sorry for Heidi/Lilly. She has become the face of this fiasco.


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