The Museum of Hoaxes
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The Hoax Museum Blog
Category: Advertising
The Airbrushed Asian — When Scottish tourism officials first unveiled the promotional poster for next year's Homecoming Scotland campaign (whose purpose is to get people of Scottish descent to visit the homeland), people looked at it and remarked, "You know, not everyone in Scotland is white." So a second version of the poster was sneaked out, with one small change: an Asian guy had been photoshopped in. (He's on the left side of the bottom image). But most people seem to think the change is even worse than…
Posted: Mon Dec 22, 2008.   Comments (10)

Your classmates aren’t looking for you — Classmates.com told Anthony Michaels that former classmates were looking for him. If only he would upgrade to a premium membership, they would put him in touch with his school buddies. So Michaels paid the money. Then he discovered that no one was looking for him. Now he's brought a class-action suit against classmates.com for deceptive advertising. There's a fine line in advertising between what's legal and what's not. "Puffery," which is defined as making exaggerated claims that the…
Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008.   Comments (15)

McCain wins debate that hasn’t happened yet — Apparently John McCain's campaign has access to the same time machine used by the Chinese journalists at Xinhua News who reported the launch of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft (including the astronaut's dialogue) hours before it happened. (See previous post.) McCain's campaign has been running an ad in the Wall Street Journal's online edition declaring that "McCain Wins Debate," which is a bold assertion considering that the debate will only happen tonight. Link: Washington Post
Posted: Fri Sep 26, 2008.   Comments (6)

Adventures in Astroturf — Margriet Oostveen describes in Salon.com how she composed phony letters-to-the-editor on behalf of the McCain campaign: The assignment is simple: We are going to write letters to the editor and we are allowed to make up whatever we want -- as long as it adds to the campaign. After today we are supposed to use our free moments at home to create a flow of fictional fan mail for McCain. "Your letters," says Phil Tuchman, "will be sent to our campaign offices in battle states. Ohio.…
Posted: Thu Sep 25, 2008.   Comments (4)


Fake iPhone Queues — There probably is some sound marketing psychology to the idea that if people are seen lining up for something, other people will assume it's desirable. I've often suspected that those people who line up to buy Sony Playstations (or whatever the product might be) are getting paid. From Scotsman.com: A POLISH mobile phone operator said yesterday it had hired actors to stand in line to buy Apple's iPhone as the device went on sale for the first time in the eastern European country. The…
Posted: Mon Aug 25, 2008.   Comments (8)

Wine Spectator Hoaxed — Osteria L’Intrepido, a restaurant in Milan, Italy, was recently awarded Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for its wine list. Problem is, Osteria L'Intrepido doesn't exist. It was a hoax restaurant created by Robin Goldstein (author of The Wine Trials) which he created to test the validity of Wine Spectator's award program. Goldstein's description of the hoax can be read here. Wine Spectator's response is here. If you don't know much about Wine Spectator's award program (as I…
Posted: Fri Aug 22, 2008.   Comments (9)

Fake Coffee with the News — Product placement has reached the TV news. On the desk in front of the anchors of Las Vegas's Fox 5 TV news sit two cups of McDonald's iced coffee. McDonald's is paying for the coffee to be there. But the best part: it's not real coffee. It's just a plastic simulation of iced coffee. From the Las Vegas Sun: The anchors aren’t even supposed to acknowledge them, McDonald’s reps explain. That’s part of their genius, my little lambs! They get into your mind without you knowing it. So they…
Posted: Wed Jul 23, 2008.   Comments (10)

Is the Wii Fit girl video a covert marketing campaign? — Just as popular recently as the Office Freakout video (posted about below), has been a video titled "Wii Fit - Why You Should Buy It For Your Girlfriend." It's one minute of a girl in her underwear working out with the Nintendo Wii Fit as her boyfriend ogles her. There's been a lot of speculation that the video is a (not-so) covert marketing campaign by Nintendo. People grew even more suspicious after it was discovered that the woman in the video, 25-year-old Lauren Bernat, and her…
Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2008.   Comments (14)

Office Freakout Video Turns Out to be Fake — For the past few weeks a video (apparently Russian) of some guy freaking out at his office has been doing the rounds. Tobester posted about it in the forum, speculating that it was real. But no, it isn't. Wired reports that it was covert marketing for the upcoming movie Wanted, starring Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie: The undercover advert hit its target spot-on, amassing nearly 4 million views and almost 5,500 Diggs in the week since it was posted. The video is supposed to invoke…
Posted: Thu Jun 12, 2008.   Comments (5)

Todd Davis’s Social Security Number — Todd Davis, CEO of LifeLock, claims his company offers such a high level of identity-theft protection that he's willing to advertise his own social-security number. (It's 457-55-5462.) He's that sure no one is going to be able to steal his identity. Many criminals are quite happy to take him up on the challenge. From Yahoo! News: Davis acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that his stunt has led to at least 87 instances in which people have tried to steal his identity,…
Posted: Thu May 22, 2008.   Comments (11)

Unreal Beauty — The models in Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign (whose tagline was "we believe real beauty comes in many shapes, sizes and ages") may have benefitted from some "digital plastic surgery." From The Telegraph: Pascal Dangin, a celebrated retoucher of fashion pictures, claimed the Dove women were far from au naturel. In an interview with New Yorker magazine, Mr Dangin, who runs Box Studios in New York, a company which retouches photographs and does regular work for Vogue, and the fashion…
Posted: Mon May 12, 2008.   Comments (25)

Ticketmaster Creates Fake Facebook Friends — From the Wired music blog: "It appears that the company [Ticketmaster] hired someone or something to create fake Facebook friends in order to look more popular to other Facebook users." I can understand why Ticketmaster would need to create fake friends. I recently bought tickets to see The Cure. After paying $35 for each ticket, I found out I also had to pay a $20 "convenience charge" to Ticketmaster, which didn't make me feel very friendly toward them.
Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008.   Comments (9)

Food Advertising vs. Reality — The German website pundo3000.com has assembled a collection of 100 food products and compared what each one looks like, as shown on the packaging, to the actual product. In the majority of cases the difference is quite dramatic. But a few of the food products hold up pretty well in real life. For instance, the Milka chocolate bar looks almost exactly the same as it does on the packaging. But the roll (shown below) looks pretty unappetizing. Funtasticus.com has collected all the images…
Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2008.   Comments (12)

Extreme Street Soccer — The following video shows kids (maybe in Brazil, I'm guessing) performing extreme freestyle soccer tricks. The tricks are pretty cool, but of course they're fake. The flips may be real, but the soccer ball must have been digitally inserted into the shots. The video is a viral ad for a new playstation game, FIFA Street 3. It reminds me of that Nike ad featuring Ronaldinho that was going around two years ago.
Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008.   Comments (19)

Obay — Recently strange ads for a drug called "Obay" began appearing around Toronto. The ads were pretty obviously satirical, but who was responsible for them? The Church of Scientology was an early suspect, since they're well known for their anti-psychiatry stance. But it turned out they had nothing to do with the ad campaign. The Torontoist tracked down the real culprit. It's an advocacy group called Colleges Ontario, which represents twenty-four colleges in Ontario. The Torontoist writes:
Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2008.   Comments (7)

Watson’s Living Curiosities — This poster for "S. Watson's American Museum of Living Curiosities", which dates from 1885, can be found at the British Library site. All the exhibits seem like pretty standard stuff for a 19th-century museum: the stoutest lady in the world, the two-headed marvel, snake charmer, etc. It's the "Australians" exhibit that puzzles me. They don't really look like Australians. Are those outfits something that Aussies often wear?
Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2008.   Comments (10)

Is that a cockroach beneath the pizza? — Here's an ad, apparently created by a Brazilian extermination company, that is placed inside pizza boxes. The ad shows a photo of a dead roach, but it's only revealed as the pizza is removed from the box. I'm sure the ad would attract people's attention, but I find it surprising that a pizza company would agree to place an ad like this beneath their food. No word on if it's a real ad campaign, or just a mock up. (via nulovka via adrants)
Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2008.   Comments (9)

Is it art or copying? — Cranky Media Guy sent me an interesting link to an article published last December in the New York Times about the artist Richard Prince. He's described as a pioneer of "appropriation art." What this means is that Prince takes photographs of other photographer's photographs, and then displays them as his own. For instance, he had an exhibit at the Guggenheim about cowboys, which basically consisted of photographs of Marlboro ads. The guy who actually took the images for the Marlboro…
Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2008.   Comments (26)

“Less Wrinkles” — This ad, which has been running on digg, seems like a particularly egregious example of false advertising. Of course, if anyone would challenge the company in court they could say, "we never actually claimed our product could make an old lady look like a young model. That picture, as the disclaimer indicates, is merely simulated imagery." The grammar cop in me also has to point out that it should be "fewer wrinkles," not "less wrinkles." (via adrants)
Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2008.   Comments (6)

Jontex Condom Ad - Possible Hoax — The image to the right shows what is supposedly a guerrilla marketing campaign by Jontex, a Brazilian brand of condoms owned by Johnson & Johnson. The campaign involves a cardboard cutout that can be positioned beneath the door of a bathroom stall. The Brazilian phrase translates to, "You do not know when it can be necessary." But strangely, Johnson and Johnson is denying responsibility for the ad. Or, at least, the folks who run the Johnson and Johnson blog claim it's not their…
Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2008.   Comments (3)

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