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8 online hoaxes that caught everybody out

Written by Simply Zesty on

If there's one way to get something talking about your product or creation, it's to create a viral video. While it's far, far easier said than done, that isn't stopping more and more companies, brands, groups and people are creating campaigns or stories in an attempt to be the next big viral hit.

Creating something that people will talk about or will get shared is the aim for every viral campaign. However a strategy adapted by many is to manifest a situation or event to catch people's attention and later associate that with the product or subject you're promoting.

Sometimes we can spot that they're immediately fake, other times they can result in arguments about whether it's real or not and sometimes they can be so unbelievable, we just play along with it anyway since it's either so impressive not to or that we want to believe it's actually true.

Below are a number of examples of viral hoaxes that became incredibly popular due to their content before being revealed for their true purposes.

Liquid Mountaineers

Early last year, a documentary-style video was uploaded onto Youtube which tackled the subject of Liquid Mountaineering. The principal behind the sport was that, provided you got the technique right, you could run on water for a brief period of time. To do this though, you needed footwear that was waterproof so that you wouldn't sink immediately. This conveniently enough came from Hi-Tec waterproof runners which was briefly shown in the video.

The video gained 10,000,000 views and Hi-Tec denied having anything to do with its making. However a month later, they admitted that it was a hoax and that it was a viral campaign for their company. The company released a ‘making of' video to show everyone how the advert was made.

Internet Explorer IQ test

The exception in this list as it doesn't promote a company but it is a lesson not to believe everything you see or hear without question. Very recently, a fake company called AptiQuant, mailed out a press release with the headline, "Is Internet Explorer for the Dumb? A new study suggests exactly that.” In it, the release claimed that extensive research was carried out on the topic, where 100,000 people took an online IQ test to match their intelligence scores with the browser they used.

The story was quickly picked up by many news outlets including (deep breath now) CNN, NPR, CNET, London's Daily Mail, The Telegraph, Forbes, Mashable, GlobalPost, Business Insider and BBC News.

The survey capitalised the fact that many people criticise Internet Explorer and use other browsers like Firefox and Chrome instead. The people responsible for the survey confirmed it was a lighthearted joke and released a statement saying "There is no company called AptiQuant, and [no] such survey was ever done” and did it "to create awareness about the incompatibilities of IE6 and how it is pulling back innovation.”

HPOA girl

Back in August 2010, a girl who decided to quit her job became viral by sending her colleagues a series of photos where she used a whiteboard to insult her (ex)boss who called her a HPOA (hot piece of ass) and exposed his addiction to Farmville.

The story originated from, a site which uploads viral photos and videos daily. The story received 238,000 Facebook shares and 31,000 retweets and lead to the number of unique visits to the site jumping from 15,000 to 440,000 in an hour. Two days later, the website unveiled the hoax in the exact same way, revealing ‘Jenny' to be Elyse Porterfield, an actress based in LA. was also responsible for other hoaxes such as a teenage girl accidently texting her father that she lost her virginity on the beach and that Donald Trump left a $10,000 tip for a $82.27 bill.


Building one of the largest waterslide, the test run was recorded where the participant landed perfectly into a kiddie's pool. The video has received over 5.5 million views to this day.

The video was revealed to be a promotion Microsoft office Project 2007 in Germany and the its production involved, among other things, a stuntman, a lot of editing and a long piece of rope. The fact that people are still arguing on Youtube about its authenticness to this say says wonders (not about the video but more about the type of people who comment on Youtube).

Hacking video screens in Times Square

With an iPhone, a special transmitter attached on the top of said iPhone and a video repeater, two men transmit a video they recorded earlier onto numerous screens across Times square before hacking one of the main screens.

Receiving three million views (1.2 million were from the first four days it was uploaded) and picked up my many technology sites, the video was revealed to be part of a marketing campaign for the movie ‘Limitless' staring Brandon Cooper and Robert De Niro. The only clue that it was linked to the film was the trailer playing before the last screen was hacked. Like any successful viral video, they also uploaded another video to show everyone how it was all done.

Flying penguins

To promote its new show Miracles of Evolution, the BBC sent a camera crew along with ex-Monty Python member, Terry Jones to King George Island where they uncovered a colony of penguins who can fly.

The video was an April Fools day prank by the BBC to help promote the BBC iPlayer (although the Telegraph didn't quite catch onto this writing that "BBC1 viewers will see the penguins not only take flight from the Antarctic wastes but fly thousands of miles to the Amazonian rainforests to find winter sun.”)

Since it's the in-vogue thing to do, the BBC also created a ‘making of' video as well.

Extreme LED sheep

Shot at the hills of Wales, a group of sheep dog trainers, The Baa-Studs, did what they do best with sheep, bordier collies, LEDs and a camera to create a large number of LED displays. Showing the sheep in action both during the day and night, their range of tricks include becoming on large black sheep and white sheep, re-enacting a game of pong, recreating the Mona Lisa painting and a fireworks display.

The video amassed 15 million views to this day and was designed to promote Samsung and their LED TVs.

Harrods in London

During the Christmas season last year, Lloyd Hudson was fired from his job as Santa for drinking too much. Angry with this decision and after having a few drinks, he decided to take revenge on the store. Taking gaining control of the LED lights displayed outside the shop, Hudson made it spell that most festive of messages before being removed from the premises by the store's security guards.

Of course this never happened, Hudson never existed and the image shared by millions was photoshopped but that didn't stop news outlets from reporting it as a genuine news. It didn't harm Harrods though who confirmed that the story was a lighthearted joke and that their lights would stay the same as previous years. (A mention must go to the quote from the obligatory American tourist and the last comment made on - who originally ran the story - about said qoute as a reason why this story was fake, a plausible theory if there ever was one)

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