The idea, well executed, would have made for a wonderful viral clip. Unfortunately the reactions were not those of innocent bystanders in a candid-camera style viral video. They’re painfully fake reactions by actors who were cast for the production. I’ll take you through some moments that tip us off, but here’s an article that plunges into the Reddit conversations challenging the legitimacy of the clip. Amtrak and its producer, Rob Bliss creative, made this deception obvious by forgetting to remove its casting call for a video in Chicago’s Union Station with a “magical piano around Christmastime that seems to be truly alive.” One example provided in the notice was that an actor might “play ‘Chopsticks’ … and we turn it into a duet,” which is precisely what happens to a young girl as the video opens.
So I proclaim the Amtrak Magic Piano video the worst “viral” video attempt of 2013. The problem, of course, isn’t the fake piano. We kinda figured there wasn’t a magic piano. The problem is that the video itself is a fake candid-camera style clip. And instead of admitting it, Bliss and Amtrak are further burying evidence of the stunt by removing the casting information.
People love pranks for the wonderfully innocent reactions from strangers. It’s the basis of a lot of my most-viewed videos, and the basis of prank channels like Improv Everywhere. But people do not like to see fake reactions in a video that masquerades as a viral prank. And Reddit users don’t much it when companies get busted and then try to erase their tracks.
So what tips us off in the first place? Let’s do the scene by scene:
Girl playing chopsticks has almost no reaction at :28 seconds when the magical duet that occurs. Her “mother” at :37 seconds realizes her reaction is just as disingenuous so she covers her face.
At 1:00 a business man gets frustrated in convenience proximity of the piano. As the music becomes tense, his hand stays up in a token gesture of frustration. People don’t hold their hand up like that when they’re frustrated, and if they do it’s for a brief moment. He somewhat convincingly barks at the piano at 1:07, but that’s a much more severe reaction that would have occurred naturally. In real life, the guy would have almost subconsciously walked away from the noise to keep focused on his call.
At 1:25 a fat man approaches and almost convinces us he’s amused. But when he kicks into a manic blues dance at 1:44 we’re painfully aware that the moment is staged.
By the time two other musicians stumble upon the piano (a trumpet player and a harmonica player) I could no longer continue watching.
I scanned toward the end, and shouldn’t have been surprised to see Santa shooshing the piano at 3:33. I think that was actually the real Santa, though… not an actor.
Don’t fake a candid-camera style video.
If you decide to ignore lesson one, don’t post auditions publicly.
If you get busted for faking it, admit it. Don’t try to bury the evidence from Reddit folks. They’re smarter than that.
Don’t pretend it’s not sponsored… acknowledge Amtrak in the video itself.
Digiday writer Saya Weissman lists Bank of America in the top-5 brand fails on Twitter, and I just had my own amusing experience with the bank. Today’s lesson for brands is simple: while it can’t hurt to integrate your customer service help desk with your social media efforts, you probably shouldn’t have customer service reps manning the Twitter voice.
I’d characterize Bank of America’s Twitter voice as “well intentioned but lacking mental clarity.” But we can’t judge or condemn the bank! It’s kinda like an aging grandmother who may not be completely lucid, but she certainly means no harm.
Weissman’s gave BOA a “fail” because the bank provided a human but robotic response (“we’d be happy to review your account“) to tweets by activist Mark Hamilton (@darthmarkh). Hamilton, of course, wasn’t exactly keen to discuss an account. He had been tweeting about being chased away from a Bank of America by cops… it seems Hamilton had been drawing an anti-foreclosure message on the sidewalk.
My recent experience with the bank was almost as strange. Yesterday I saw that Bank of America television commercial (“Flowers“) featuring a dude bringing his gal a bouquet of flowers. Inexplicably the dude decides just one flower will do, so he leaves the rest in his cab.
My reaction to the ad wasn’t quite “I need to open a Bank of America account.” I was more thinking “I wonder what the next cab passenger thought when he found a bouquet of flowers in an otherwise empty cab?” So I tweeted: “I found the rest of the dude’s flowers in a cab. Can I keep them?” I didn’t expect a response, and frankly I was pleased to have one.
Naturally, my Tweet made absolutely no sense to anyone but me. That’s quite often my MO on Twitter. So we can’t blame Bank of America for asking for account details for clarity, right (“I’m not sure I understand the question… please send me a DM with more detail.” It’s just an odd response that sounds more SIRI than human. The logic appears to be: “when in doubt, a comment about our bank is probably an inquiry to discuss an account.” Hey that’s cool, though. The next time I have a problem with my account… I’ll just tweet something like: “increase my credit by $5K.”
Here’s my morning project… a do-it-yourself semi-portable amplified Bluetooth speaker system made out of my grandfather’s amo box. If you already have a pair of decent speakers, this system will set you back exactly $44.84 and give you sound that competes with a $300 SONOS (although the Sonos software is really cool and Wifi range is much better than 20-25 feet of Bluetooth).
A pair of speakers. I used a pair of Radio Shack Minimus 7 speakers. They don’t make them like this anymore, kids. Before there were websites, the audio mags used to rate these as the best. Again- you can bring whatever nice speakers you already have.
An amplifier. You probably already have one, but I LOVE the sound of this puppy and it’s dirt cheap: “Lepai” LP-2020A Tripath Class-T Hi-Fi Audio Mini Amplifier with Power Supply (awesome sound for $16.85, and we’re talking 1,500 almost 5-star ratings). I think this is the best tech bargain I’ve seen in my life.
Accessories: The bluetooth receiver and amplifier come with power cords and audio connectors. So all you need is some speaker wire, glue, and an extension cord.
Wish you could hear it. It’s pretty bold. Nice whoop-ass Redneck acoustical system for the pool or home. Another update Jan. 11, 2014: I just cranked it and asked a buddy and his kids to close their eyes. They picked this rig over the Sonos playing the exact same song!
The instructions are simple and, of course, you don’t need the amo box. But it’s nice if you want to move it around.
Plug the speakers into the Lepai amp speaker inputs. Plug the Lepai amp in the wall. You can handle that, right?
Plug the Homespot (or Belkin) Bluetooth receiver into the amplifier photo/audio input. Plug the power in the wall.
Get your iPhone, iPod or laptop and “find” the Homespot or Belkin, then pair them.
Turn on the sound of your device (no special app required) and it comes booming out the speakers like audible love!
Let me know if it works for ya? I can’t believe more people don’t do this!
It looks like a thumb drive and it has the Google Chrome logo on it. What is that thing called the Google Chromecast, and do you need one? If you already have a Roku or AppleTV, does the Chromecast get you anything new?
Well if you’re a YouTube binger, the answer is a certain yes.
This device launched in July, but is probably the least understood product Google has ever made. It’s basically a $35 easy-to-install dongle that plugs into a television’s HDMI input and allows you to stream video and audio via Wifi. The catch is that it only works with select apps like YouTube, Netflix and Google play. By contrast, Roku, TiVo and AppleTV are more full-serviced tools/services for grazing video via select services.
Unlike other streaming-video gadgets (Roku, TiVo, AppleTV), Google Chromecast has a fairly defined use. If you’re watching a YouTube or Netflix video on a computer, phone or pad, you can easily “fling” it to an HDTV to share with others. This is a handy feature if you’d prefer to use a device to control an experience, rather than a remote.
To set it up, you:
Plug in the Chromecast into the back of your television via HDMI input (the packaging is a bit deceptive, because you also need to power it with an additional cord that goes into a wall).
“Find” the Chromecast via your device’s blue tooth, then you connect the Chromecast with your device’s app.
The next time you’re snacking on a video on your device, you can choose to play it on your TV via the Chromecast.
I still like Roku because it gives me easy access to Netflix and Amazon Prime, and the remote makes life fairly simple. But I can see Google Chrome as more than a poor-man’s Roku. If you watch a lot of YouTube, it’s a no-brainer. You get all the benefits of your “lean forward” binging (searching, subscribing, related videos) but via a large-screen “lean back” experience.
I can think of another use that would alone justify its $35 price… if you travel a lot, it’s a nice way to watch Netflix from a hotel room without crowding a laptop. Of course you’ll need wifi.
Bloke named Ben Lehmann turned on his windshield wipers on the viper, but that didn’t work. The snake manages to slither along the driver’s side window, and holds tight even as the car begins to pick up speed.
So that reminds me… a guy was at a movie theater last week to see the Catching Fire debut. He notices what looks like a snake sitting next to him. “Are you a snake?” asked the man, surprised. “Yes.” “What are you doing at the movies?” The snake replied, “Well, mate, I liked the book.”
I didn’t care much when some of the online video sites retired “consumer generated” accounts, and killed my Nalts channels. Metacafe, Revver, Yahoo video, Google video. But I’ve been rooting for the Blip.tv underdog since its infancy. So when I learned today they deleted my account, I felt totally betrayed.
Blip.tv is now owned by Internet studio, Maker. They’ve never much liked me, unfortunately.
Unfortunately many of my Blip.tv videos are gone for good… not uploaded to other video-sharing sites and not backed up. Whey they began killing some accounts I wasn’t surprised. I expected some of my secondary “staging” accounts at Blip.tv to go away, so I backed them up. But didn’t expect they’d kill my Nalts one. 🙁
Part of my Internet youth died today. Not since Revver closed shop has the internet made me so sad.
The creators of Walhub, an electrical switch cover that has storage features, snuck a batch of products into Ikea to demonstrate demand. It’s a clever way to put a new product on a radar, and connect it with an existing brand (Ikea) without, of course, permission. I proclaim “Hacking Ikea,” featured in Adage, the best guerilla campaign of 2013. If you know of something more clever, let me know!
I can only suggest 3 things to improve it:
I wanted to know the people behind the stunt. Text overlay in introductions are cold, people. How about hearing briefly from the creators? Make us care about their plight. Make us believe they’re creative artists who built something cool but don’t have the retail muscle of the big boys. And be sure that the average video grazer knows that many of the “victims” got free products (which is only obvious when watching most of the video).
Team should focus viral-video seeding on the YouTube version not the Vimeo one. The latter may be for groovy artists, but YouTube views beget views. In general, if you can get people viewing a YouTube video, it will produce more downstream views for two reasons: first, it will SEO optimize. Second, it will show up as a “related” video when YouTube’s algorithm senses it’s being shared. I’m still perplexed as why anyone would ever seed a video that’s not on YouTube.
Laughter behind the camera. This is something I discovered accidentally when creating Farting in Public because I didn’t have hidden mics and fancy equipment. We want to hear the crew laughing. It’s an authentic laugh track.
Surprising news from NPR about the implication of AOL buying Adap.tv.
AOL is now above Google/YouTube in online-video advertising views. In ComScore’s Web video rankings for September, AOL topped Google as the property with the most video ads watched last month, with 3.7 billion views compared to the YouTube parent’s 3.2 billion.
This is a bit misleading, however. Google/YouTube’s income and profit from video ads is likely far higher than Adap.tv and some AOL ads. Adap.tv is an intermediary, and much of the revenue from its advertising income is shared with both the creator of the video or the site where the video appears.
Here’s an example. AOL sealed a partnership with ESPN to syndicate ESPND clips on AOL Web sites, including owned sites like Huffington Post, and onto connected devices through its AOL On app. That means when advertisers pay AOL, much of that revenue is shared with ESPN and some would be shared with non-AOL sites where the videos are further syndicated.
Of course Google/YouTube also pays its content creator a portion of the revenue. But when you buy an ad with Google/YouTube, there’s no ad network involved to take a split. And because Google/YouTube hosts its own videos, they don’t need to share with another site or syndicator.
This explains why AOL is partnering with A-list celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jonathan Adler to either host or star in original Web series for its AOL On Network, the company’s video platform. Ads around these types of program deals don’t have to be shared with anyone except the creators and AOL. Advertisers will pay far more to be a part of custom programing if it gets decent views. AOL can snatch even more if it can get a sponsor or exclusive advertiser.