Exploring Hidden Camera Viral Marketing

I love hidden camera shows, I love watching them, I love making them.  I started in high school with a short lived show we were calling SocioFiles that lasted about as long as it took for us to get booted out of the Westminster Mall... cameras were much harder to hide back then.  More recently, while preparing for the #MyTurnToJag spots that I shot over the summer, a hidden camera viral ad for Pepsi was a strong influence on the visual design of the spots.    

Even though we weren't creating a traditional hidden camera spot, the energy of these commercial's was a touchstone on how we wanted our spots to feel, very visceral and in the moment.  

I recently had a chance to discuss the spot with the cinematographer, Charles Papert and it was interesting to note that during their short prep time, he was always under the assumption that the audience would know that the test drive was fake.  There were so many elements that would defy reason, surely audiences are sophisticated enough to recognize when they are having the wool pulled over their eyes.  Apparently not!  By using the stylistic conventions of hidden camera shows from the past, the line between "real" and "fake" is ever more blurred.  All it takes is attention to enough small details, and the inclusion of just enough plausible explanations for how a setup could be possible and audiences are ready, willing, and it would seem actively want to believe what is portrayed in these ads.

 I'm intrigued that this form of television has taken on a new form, Viral Marketing has embraced the hidden camera gag like never before.  Online marketing has released the limitations of the 30 second commercial and now gives enough time to tell the bigger story.  It seems audiences are as much interested in the behind the scenes aspects of the setup as they are the results.

The results are getting edgier by the day,  I'm curious to see how far this will go before people have a negative reaction, with shows like Darren Brown's Apocalypse, it would seem to suggest we are comfortable taking it further than anyone would imagine.