Nine pieces of fake video content that brands pretended were real

heidi jacketSo let’s just be clear. I’m aware that ads aren’t real. But at the same time, there’s a grammar behind them. A main point being the principle of truth in advertising – the idea that you can’t make claims that aren’t real. If you can’t prove that your product is 25% better at something than it’s rival, you can’t say so.

Yet when it comes to online video, the principle often goes out of the window. Instead, the joke’s on the consumer. Most documentary-style video doesn’t show what it purports to. Which eventually hurts the whole industry, because consumers become ever more cynical.

And it also almost never results in a good marketing result either.

At which point let’s take a look at nine videos that Look Pretty Fake To Me.

Reverse Robberies – Oak

Anyone really believe that the brand signed off on masked raiders unexpectedly bursting into a convenience store? Anyone think it was convenient that the fridge was already empty? Anyone think they really were solving a channel distribution issue?

As it happens, this particular “raid” took place in the shop opposite my office. The shopkeeper tells me it took them about two hours to film. He had to give away most of the drink afterwards because it was nearing the best-by date. Their distribution people didn’t follow up afterwards, so he doesn’t stock it.

The Most Outrageous Way To Share A Coke – Coca Cola

I hate two things about this. First, it’s general fakeness, as if to suggest that a group of college kids threw this device together before inviting a couple of hundred of their friends who turned up and freaked out because they got a free Coke.

And second, because it’s a complete rip-off of the Mythbusters style.

Of Course, Coke has previous

The 28 Day Persecution of Rommy Gulla – Panasonic

We wrote about this one extensively at the time. The brand claimed that each day they’d be playing a particular prank – for instance, filling the victim’s bedroom with helium as he slept. It was a fake featuring an actor. And a badly done fake at that. The ad agency is no longer in business.

McDonald’s Playground

Imagine how much better (and more PR-able) this 2010 ad – purporting to be delighting commuters at Sydney’s Circular Quay – would have been if the people trying out the playground weren’t actors.

Levi’s Rear View Girls

Featuring two Kiwi girls on the streets of LA, the giveaway is the glimpse of the Levi’s logo at the end. Perhaps they were staring at the camera stuck to the woman’s arse, rather than her arse. Still, at least the idea was original.

Witchery – Heidi and the jacket

Remember “Heidi”? She wasn’t the greatest actress in the world, was she?


Remember Motorola’s man in need of a friend “Rob Multo”? No, me neither. If he’d been real he might not have been quite so lame.

NAB – Barbecue of freedom

NAB’s had some great ads over the last couple of years. This one purporting to feature a helicopter hovering above a cramped Aussie barbie is not one of them.

Savages Crossing – John Jarratt’s “meltdown”

It’s sad to see a great Assie actor reduced to this to promote a movie. With a budget of a reported $3.5m, it took less than $5000 on its opening weekend. This didn’t help.

Tim Burrowes


  1. Warra Spraggon
    11 Nov 12
    7:23 pm

  2. I see nothing wrong with them. They entertain, which is what good advertising should do in order to get viewer appeal. Why would people get upset by this, its all pretty obviously ‘fake’ which, like you mentioned, is advertising. Online is a fantastic new avenue for it and should continue to be exploited. : )

  3. Greg
    11 Nov 12
    8:02 pm

  4. the horror… the coke one was by far the worst though

  5. Peter
    11 Nov 12
    11:09 pm

  6. Bang on the money Tim. People hate advertisers enough as it is. We don’t have to make it this easy for them…

  7. mo
    12 Nov 12
    9:54 am

  8. Oh come on – yes there are some dummies here, but the internet provides the freedom we crave to explore different approaches. Australian clients are already THE MOST CONSERVATIVE in the world. Occasionally we can get them to loosen up and go for a different approach, trialling it on the www. Please don’t overthink it – none of the viewers would be.

  9. nell_schofield
    12 Nov 12
    10:27 am

  10. Warra Spraggon you shouldn’t be in the advertising business because you don’t understand consumers

    they have never been more cynical of this kind of BS and all of these ‘ads’ created negative brand perceptions because they treat viewers like idiots

    just because you produce entertainment doesn’t mean you have a license to deceive

  11. Richard Moss
    12 Nov 12
    5:03 pm

  12. This kind of thing would work better under the title of “Ad Ideas”, or “Do you believe it?”
    when trying to create the appearance of raw reality, you need to let go of the creative side of your talent, look only at the intent and get a novice to shoot it.

    Creating so called reality, is a very difficult thing to achieve. Again, anyone who understands theatre should know, that you never, under any circumstances, underestimate your audience; they will fool you ten fold,before you will get away with fooling them once. Shame on you for trying.

  13. Richard @ Igloo Branded Entertainment
    13 Nov 12
    7:20 am

  14. Good grief.

  15. Anne Miles
    13 Nov 12
    11:18 am

  16. I love that Mumbrella have taken this stance – Mumbrella having some integrity here?! Nice one Tim.

    I do think that consumers are super smart and a brand has to be authentic about what they’re doing. Entertainment should not be at the expense of integrity and neither should integrity be at the expense of entertainment. It certainly is possible to have both.

    Like with that fine line between fantasy and fact in TVC’s there is a fine line to tread. I’m all for some fantasy but agree I like it to be more obvious. The Coke spot for example is pretty obvious to me so i’m cool with that one in this way – not so cool on the ripping off of Mythbusters’ new show though.

    Much like the TV campaigns and the so called ‘testimonials’ that are simply actors ad-libbing, this is not a new issue for brands. Having worked on many campaigns with real people it is possible to ensure the client gets what they need and to be authentic in what is communicated, still allowing people to be themselves.

    I agree that the McDonalds spot is the biggest lost opportunity. Whilst getting people to make that first move could have been the issue it wouldn’t have been that hard to get some authentic play and have a more honest communication.

    I agree with @Richard Moss – never underestimate the audience, but I disagree that re-creating raw reality isn’t that hard. I feel that this is where people go wrong – they think a handycam and some energetic unscripted talent is how you get ‘real’. That’s where most of these videos have come unstuck – the production hasn’t been really thought through in how they can get authenticity at the same time as entertainment – and that’s a real art.

  17. Michael Blumberg
    16 Nov 12
    4:39 pm

  18. Oak reverse robberies – sheer joy and strategically bang on. Great Monkey business.

  19. Whorses for courses
    20 Nov 12
    7:42 pm

  20. Like all advertising, it depends if it’s lame or not. Oak / Coke / Jacket man… freaking lame. Ass-cam, very nice.

    I’m sure every one of those people in shot signed release forms however, which throws the whole thing into question.