Sunday, May 20, 2007

The two nudist streakers that fall in love over the internet

As a nudist I was very pleased when I saw this video on a random website: The end of the video gives a link to the site, and only then did I start to get the feeling it was fake. I mean, it doesn't say directly, but it says
We gave people the chance to vote about what they thought should happen with stories like these: Should companies make stories and websites like these, or should they stick to normal ads? We asked whether they thought they’d been lied to or whether they enjoyed the story? Where does entertaining advertising stop and invasive manipulation begin?
So I look at the vote results...
Are stories like scott and emma's okay? 54.3% yes, advertisers of the world, go nuts and entertain me 22% yes, but only if at the end I am told it was a story 16% no, you should tell me from the start that it's fiction 7.7% no, keep ads in ad breaks and entirely separate from entertainment
I find it hard to believe that, in general, the majority of people don't care whether a story that is presented as the truth is actually false. If that's so, my faith in humanity is all but lost. If viewers don't mind in this case, I think it's probably because either
  1. They do not identify with nudists or streakers and don't care about the truth because it doesn't affect them on an emotional level, or
  2. They suspected it was fake already
Oh, and it could also be the biased phrasing of the poll question.

But I was affected on an emotional level--I thought it was an awesome and sweet story--and I didn't suspect it was fake because it looked convincing. If it were fake, it probably would have required a significant budget to put together. So why would it start and end with defects that look like playing and pausing a VHS tape? Why the low video quality? It was an effective psychological trick. Which brings us to motive: why make up a story like this? The website considers it advertising, but advertising for what? They weren't selling anything, so it just didn't look like an advertisement.

I conclude their motive was the value of market research. It's an experiment in viral marketing and an experiment in how much BS consumers are willing to tolerate. Their poll seems to show that consumers don't mind being lied to, which reminds me of the Iraq war and Bush administration's success in obtaining a second term. But I think reality is more complex. I suspect the poll result can be explained by human selfishness, by apathy. I think their tolerance has more to do with the fact that the story didn't affect them. If they were nudists, less of them would mind the lie. Same goes if they were in the military, or in Iraq.

Wait, wait, I'm connecting viral marketing with the war in Iraq? Good heavens, what's wrong with me?