Here’s another reminder that we shouldn’t believe everything we watch on the Internet.
You may remember the sensational viral video from two years ago, in which a man, after jumping off a cliff and into the Sydney Harbour, has a close call with a great white shark. The footage, filmed with a GoPro, is gripping. The man can be heard gurgling and screaming in the water as he fights off the shark.
Or you may remember a video from earlier this year, in which a girl, snowboarding down a slope in the Japanese Alps, is chased by a great bear — but is totally oblivious to it because she was singing Rihanna.
Or perhaps this video of a selfie stick fight aboard a boat between an American and Japanese tourist, with the Japanese tourist throwing the American overboard.
These viral videos, along with five other viral videos, have been watched a total of over 205 million times all over the world. They have also been broadcast internationally on NBC, Fox, CBS, CNN, Sky News and ABC (US), according to the Guardian.
But here’s the thing: the videos were all fake.
They were all produced by Woolshed, a Melbourne-based independent Australian production studio that has just revealed itself as the creator of the viral videos. Over a two-year period, the company created the videos as an experiment to explore the elements that make videos go viral, Woolshed says on its website, insisting that this time they’re not faking it.
The managing director of the company, Dave Christison, said they wanted to create the fake videos as “an organic kind of experiment to see” whether they could “make some noise in the viral world.”
It’s worth noting that the company also makes real, authentic videos for commercial purposes. But their radical two-year experiment with creating fake viral videos was a way to learn more about film promotion, securing commercial projects, and crafting effective messages for nonprofits’ marketing campaigns, Australian Broadcasting reported.
It’s worth noting that the company, which revealed its “experiment” with great fanfare, also aims to cash in. First it fooled you. Now it wants your business. “For more information on how to grow your online presence through viral marketing, please contact us,” it says on its website.
The company was able to obtain funding from Screen Australia, the Australian government’s funding body for the screen production industry. With the funding, Christison and his team were able to experiment with making viral hoax videos.
“Screen Australia knew we were exploring what is real and what is fake and how the world reacted to it,” Christison told the Guardian. “We approached them with the concept, that we’d really like to figure out what are the best ways to reach really big audiences with these tiny little stories. It was totally different to what they normally fund.”
Explaining its participation in what was essentially a series of hoaxes, Screen Australia official Mike Cowap told the Guardian: “We were aware that some people may not realise the videos were fiction, so Screen Australia was clear from the outset that none of the content could cause a potential War of the Worlds moment, alarm people or cause them to take action.”
With all the trade secrets that they’ve learned over the two years, Christison told the Huffington Post Australia, the company is now ready to use their viral project to attract new clients.
That assumes, of course, that their clever story about fooling the world isn’t just another “experiment.”
Here are the other fake viral videos produced by Woolshed: