If the internet has contributed one thing to the PR profession and brand marketing, it has been the ability to explore human interaction through alternate mediums. No longer are we restricted to blatantly pushing a brand through television advertisements. PR and marketing practitioners are now expected to embrace their creative side, employing seamless campaigns within an online and interactive environment. Yes, we’re talking about viral video campaigns.

Viral videos are now big business for companies looking to expose their brand to as many eye balls as possible. And in all honesty, what’s wrong with this? Subtle (and not so subtle) product placement is nothing new, though in the wake of various successful viral videos it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish an organic viral hit from a marketing campaign.

Published on The Sydney Morning Herald online earlier this year is an article outlining a number of viral videos which have deceived audiences for the purposes of brand-marketing. Here are two examples:

• Levi’s-Launched a viral video which involved two New Zealand women documenting how many men peaked at their behind with hidden cameras. This video (which was uploaded to YouTube) notched up four millions views before the scam was outed to the public.

• Witchery-Men’s wear company Witchery was responsible for the infamous Man In The Jacket video, which involves a women named Heidi pleading for help to find a man she met at a Sydney café. Of course, it was later exposed that Heidi was an actor and the video was a campaign for the brand’s latest line of menswear.

Most recently, Panasonic have landed what most would call “the perfect story” in order to promote their Tough Lumix FT10. The story revolves around NSW glazier, Adam Biro, who is reported to have caught the camera (which had been submerged for a week) while fishing. Biro then reported his find to Panasonic, who have now launched a campaign to find the camera’s owners through various social media channels.

This story has provided Panasonic with the perfect strategy for marketing their Tough Lumix model and the perfect test of the camera’s specialised features. However, it is currently unknown whether this campaign is a fraud or if Panasonic have actually struck authentic marketing gold. But with so many deceptive campaigns being circulated this scepticism regarding the story’s authenticity is rather unsurprising.

Regardless of whether this latest viral effort is a fraud, how do you feel regarding the use of viral videos for marketing? Is it yet another shameless effort to win over vulnerable consumers? Or is this a creative, innovative way to engage consumers through a new medium?

-Sam Kilborn