Ad Watchdog Says Ad Videos (Viral Or Not) Need To Obey Truth-In-Advertising Rules
from the what-about-satire? dept
A few months ago, you may recall that there was a semi-popular “viral”video going around, showing a group of friends sitting around a table with mobile phones. They put the phones in the middle of a table surrounding a corn kernel, and then dialed the phones and watched the corn pop. This got some buzz, and a quick debate over whether or not it was real. It seemed rather obviously fake (and, in many ways, similar to another fake video from earlier about cooking an egg with mobile phones), but some people were tricked. About a week after the video became popular, a bluetooth headset manufacturer admitted to creating the video to try to sell more handsfree kits.
Now, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has slapped the company on the wrist, noting that even though it was just an online viral video PR stunt, such videos should still live up to various “truth-in-advertising” standards. The LA Times story on this gets the details wrong, suggesting that it was only when this report came out that it was revealed that the video came from a bluetooth handset maker. That’s not the case, as the company admitted it was a viral video about a week after it became famous.
Still, while I understand the reasoning for why truth-in-advertising should apply to viral videos, I’m not entirely convinced it makes sense in this case, where the video itself wasn’t an actual advertisement — and the only time people discovered that it was an advertisement was in conjunction with the revelation that it was a hoax. While perhaps some people were fooled initially into believing the video was real, it’s difficult to see that video alone (which didn’t mention hands free kits) driving people to using hands free kits. If anything, someone who believe the video would probably just use their phone less entirely, rather than switching to a hands-free kit. I definitely believe truth-in-advertising rules make sense, but it’s not entirely clear how this was false advertising, rather than a hoax to generate discussion.