Fake is the New Real: Guy catches glasses with face

Here's a great little case study we might get to dig into during the panel I'm involved in at Mesh later this month. The topic of our session is: Is Fake the New Real? Transparency and Trust, and I just found some excellent fuel for that particular fire.

One of the hottest videos rising up the ranks at YouTube right now is this one (below) in which two aging hipsters pull off a series of goofy tricks, tossing and catching a pair of sunglasses by face:

There's been some debate in the comments as to whether the video footage is real or faked, but who cares? It's funny, clever, and has all the ingredients of something that's destined to go viral through blog posts, forward-to-friend links, and cross posting on other video sharing sites (evidence: it's already been posted to or picked up by Metacafe, Grouper, GoFish, IFilm, DailyMotion, even the infamous eBaum's World).

As of this writing, the original video on YouTube is sitting at over 918,000 views, more than 6,000 comments, and it's been "favorited" (ugh - nasty expression) more than 5,700 times.

Here's the thing though: it's an advert.

The sunglasses used in the video are a classic pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers. At the end of the 90 seconds or so of film, you see the shades-catching dude sitting in a car that has the words "Never Hide" scribbled into the dust on the window. That just happens to be the tagline for a current Ray-Ban campaign, as featured on their website.

The guys at AdRants have the scoop on this, as they were apparently pitched directly by Feed Company, the agency responsible. The video was posted to YouTube by a user named "neverhide". A quick Google search shows that they've been all over the place with this one. They've even got the requisite MySpace page.

So. It's cool, it's popular, but it's fake. Or, not "fake", perhaps, but certainly not an authentic piece of "User Generated Content".

Feed Co.'s "About" page describes the agency thus:

"Feed Company is a video view optimization company in Los Angeles, CA that helps advertisers and entertainment companies get their video exposed on popular blogs, social video networks, and P2P services."

What we have here is a piece produced by a professional firm, designed to look kind of amateur, grungy, and user-generated. And - yes - it's really well done. But are we OK with that?

I'm ambivalent.

If there are agencies popping up whose entire raison d'être is to "feed the monster"(as Feed puts it) of the UGC and social media space, well that's kind of weird but understandable.

If paid, professional work is presented as though it's something done by enthusiastic dilettantes - that's lying.

But it's a fuzzy line.

Anyway, look forward to getting into this with my fellow panelists when we're Meshing in a couple of weeks.