Is a Hoax Video Viral Marketing Campaign Good For Business?

September 2, 2015

Viral video hoax of pregnant French touristThis week’s story of a pregnant French tourist who returned to Queensland to find the nameless father of her unborn child should have, quite frankly, triggered the bullshit meter right from the start.

It has now been revealed as a hoax. A social media marketing company that ‘specialises in viral videos’ created a fake video with the intention of promoting their client, a company on the Sunshine Coast. The French woman who starred in the video was an actor.

This hoax may well go down in history as a textbook case of what not to do as part of a marketing strategy.

‘Help me find him’

In a YouTube video that in just a few days has over a million views, ‘Natalie’ (incidentally not spelt the French way) told how she had flown back to Paris the very next morning after their tryst.

She lost her phone, which contained the precious number of her baby-daddy-to-be, even though she had neglected to find out his name.

Upon finding she was six weeks pregnant, she ‘spent the last of her money’ flying back to Australia to find him. By releasing a video of herself. Which presumably she could have just as easily released online from France.

In the poor-quality, but obviously edited video, ‘Natalie’ directed viewers to become friends with her on her newly-created personal Facebook profile (not even a page!) to help find the man she had ‘fallen in love with at first sight’.

Although the elements of the story seemed highly dubious, that didn’t stop media outlets worldwide from giving it airtime, or the colourful, and at times, downright offensive discussion on social media about the young woman’s one-night-stand that involved unprotected sex.

Make me a campaign that goes viral

Ah, to go viral…isn’t that just the little bit of magic everyone wants in their marketing?

I’ve certainly heard this request more than once myself.

The video did indeed go viral.

But has this client, who presumably would have paid in the thousands for the campaign, actually gotten good bang for their buck?

Well, no…

An effective marketing campaign?

While engagement is certainly an important goal of a business’s social media activity, fostering this through false, deceptive means does little to build positive brand awareness, trust, or encourage people to do business with them.

The brand awareness in this campaign has been not only negative, but also (and possibly just as well) very minimal.

A second video, titled ‘I Found Him’, revealed the name of the business this agency was supposedly promoting (I’m not giving either parties involved extra mileage by mentioning their names).

It was a blink-and-you-missed-it mention. By the end, I had already forgotten the business’s name. And I certainly had not gleaned much of a clue about what they do.

Sure, the video had a lot of views. But it was hardly an ad for the Sunshine Coast company, which it turns out provides accommodation in the town ‘Natalie’ had met her true love.

You could say it raises awareness of the town to tourists, or as the hoaxer said in the reveal video, puts it ‘on the map’.

Yes, women worldwide do now know there is a town in Queensland they can come to if they want to have wild nights of passionate unprotected sex with tall, handsome strangers.

If more tourists go there, they will presumably seek accommodation, which this company offers.

But the original video of ‘Natalie’ with the beach in the background did little more to sell the town or showcase its natural wonders than tell viewers how ‘amazing’ the people were.

Going viral does not trump lack of ethics

Sure, there are great marketing campaigns that have achieved success by ‘going viral’. There are not many that have done so by being as openly deceptive though.

The ethics of this campaign were non-existent. It set out to fool people, many of whom took the time to support the woman’s quest, or share their opinion of her actions on social media.

When the excitement dies down in a couple of days, this marketing campaign will surely go down in the record books as one that caused more harm than good.

Public backlash is already evident online, including the business’s Facebook page – which incidentally has only a couple of hundred followers and wasn’t updated since June.

How they could have marketed better

This business could have better spent their marketing dollars on a more solid campaign that focused on developing genuine engagement, a website that provides a better user experience, and informative, useful content shared across a range of relevant channels.

This was lazy, potentially harmful marketing. And if anything, should serve as a warning to businesses not to attempt ‘going viral’ at all costs.

Now over to you…do you think this campaign was a good idea?


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