On the 22nd of February, a video of a female cyclist assaulting a van full of catcalling builders made headline news across all major UK media, including The Telegraphy, The Guardian, The Sun and BBC News.
This video was released earlier by the London based media company, Jungle Creations, earlier in the week. The agency is committed to creating viral videos that will reach millions of viewers around the world and bring increase in consumer engagement for their clients, and this video was no different. They succeeded in getting thousands of viewers, however, the response might be very different to what they had expected.
It is an agency’s worst nightmare to be called out for fraud. That is exactly what happened with Jungle Creation and this video. When they released the video, the accompanied Twitter statement claimed that it was a raw footage taken by an unsuspecting motorcyclist’s camera. Basically, it wasn’t a stunt orchestrated by the media agency.
It was a brilliant video because it ticked all boxes, relatable (female empowerment), covered a trending topic (men vs. women), and humorous. The media quickly picked up on the trending topic and ran with it. Jungle Creations once again was creating a buzz on social media and starting conversations everywhere.
Any media agency understands that the conversations they create may not always be in agreement of the content they release; a negative response is still a form of engagement. However, it is bad if the viewers are finding mistakes within the video itself (or campaign). This is what happened with this viral video.
A witness came forward and informed the media that the video is actually a fraud. He had seen someone give instructions to the cyclist and the ‘builders’ in the van. So, Jungle Creations was lying all along.
On Reddit, people were already questioning the authenticity of the video. Many people were suspicious of the utter coincidence that the motorcyclist was there just at the right time and was coincidentally heading in the same direction as the biker. Let’s not forget how fast the cyclist was going in order to catch up with the van and also the strength required to dislodge a side mirror from a car.
Eventually, Jungle Creations cracked under the public’s pressure and released a press release stating that they hadn’t realized that the video was a set up and that it was given to them by a third party. They apologized for failing to verify the video.
Now, I am not saying that all campaign or viral videos have to be true, but it is the responsibility of the producers of the video to declare it. When a company, as experienced as Jungle Creations, is so careless about the validity of the video, it shows recklessness or, worse, that they were purposely trying to mislead the public.
In this time of day, it is even more important for agency’s to not be tempted to venture into the world of ‘fake news’ in order to achieve their goals. The public is even more cautious now and they can tear these campaigns apart in the blink of an eye. A scandal like this could destroy the reputation of agencies, and worse, their clients.
Again, this is not to say that video’s produced for campaigns have to be raw. Many campaigns, including Sprite and Coca Cola are all in house productions, they were all planned and scripted. This viral video of the cyclist would have gone off without a hitch, if Jungle Creations had just written a disclaimer (even a tiny one) that it was produced by a third party.
As PR practitioners, we are not politicians, so everything we say should be based on the truth. Be honest with the people, don’t misguide them for our own benefits. In the long term, as we’ve seen with Jungle Creation’s video, it will come back to haunt us.