Posted a little less than a year ago (the video was uploaded May 05, 2008), this entertaining video has gotten over 5,000,000 plays and looks like a great viral video. It’s got quite a bit of appeal as we watch vaguely athletic 20-somethings jump (and land) in pairs of jeans in interesting ways. We assume we’ve been brought along on the ride by a friend who has picked up a video camera to film the shenanigans, and posted them on youtube for fun, and maybe a bit of fame.
It’s exactly the sort of thing that a typical college student would forward along to a friend, never assuming it was an ad. There’s no real dialog in it, no mention of the jeans at all, just subtle glances at the label that could pass as amateur camera work.
As an ad, it saw considerable success in the number of views. As an exercise in transparency, it was far less successful. For a few days, people forwarded the video, posted it on blogs, sent the link, and the buzz was pretty high. People were curious who these guys were and how they did it. Shortly thereafter, though, someone somewhere leaked that it was an ad campaign for Levi’s 501s. Bloggers, in particular, did not take kindly to being duped and the reaction was not a pleasant one.
Internet culture, for all its skepticism and negativity, wants to believe that things like this are ‘real’ and aren’t just a calculated attempt to gain sales. That said, there are a healthy number of skeptics who quickly learn when someone has been deceitful or deceiving. Companies that see the most positive reactions are those that are up front about their role in marketing and advertising, not those that hide it.