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Ethics of Fake YouTube Videos

Last week, ViralBlog published a post about fake videos on YouTube, branded content that tricks users into thinking they’re not watching a marketing video production company or commercial, or videos about a product that involve deceptive special effects. Below are some examples of such content.

This video production company was created by “independent advertising network” Droga5, in collaboration with Activision’s chief creative officer, Brad Jakeman. Jakeman said that he wanted people to figure out that the video was a hoax, much like figuring out how to play a video game.

This MEGAWOOSH video, although obviously fake, has almost 6 million views and people don’t seem to mind. Microsoft has admitted that it was a fake viral video for their Microsoft Office Project 2007.

We were lead to believe that the video was made possible after a big sponsor came to the aid of German engineer Bruno Kammerl, who invented a near frictionless material. However, the obvious fakeness of the video makes the deception palatable and somewhat entertaining.

The video, which purports to show Kobe Bryant jumping over a speeding Aston Martin, is fake. It was used by Nike to promote their Hyperdunk Black Colorways sneakers and was made with the help of special effects.

Is it inherently wrong to make intentionally deceitful videos? Ethics do apply to marketing and advertising, but the videos above don’t seem to cross any ethical lines. The videos are not making dishonest claims about the advertised products and are mostly using special effects to enhance the digital content. In other words, Kobe Bryant didn’t jump over the car but he theoretically could have with or without those shoes.

At the end, these videos are based on an implied lie (that what is happening in the videos happened in real life), but it’s the nature of the lie that ultimately determines whether a fake branded video is unethical. If these videos made claims about the advertised product and tried to pose it as honesty, then they’d be out of line.

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