5 Brilliantly Faked Viral Ads That People Still Keep Thinking Are Real

Years later, they're still getting passed around

Sometimes even the smartest people you know can share something fake in social media, and correcting them is one of the few joys of being an ad geek. 

We've compiled some viral ads that have proven the test of time by fooling folks into clicking the share button for a surprising number of years the spots were debunked.

Check out the stories and learn the agencies behind these durable bits of deception below: 


—Bruce Lee Ping-Pong

• What people think it is: Archival footage of kung-fu master Bruce Lee playing ping-pong with nunchucks

• What it really is: An ad for the Nokia N96 Bruce Lee Limited Edition

• Agency behind it: JWT Beijing

• Year created: 2008

• Views so far: 17.6 million on main YouTube clip 

Using a Bruce Lee look-alike, deceptively grainy visuals and some digital trickery, JWT Singapore created a viral masterpiece with this ad for a limited-edition Bruce Lee version of Nokia's N96 phone. An original 10-second teaser featured only the fake footage with no mention of a brand, and it tallied more than 700,000 views in the first 24 hours. Nokia followed up soon with the full video and product reveal. To this day, many share the supposed nunchuck footage as real, and given Lee's limitless talents, that's not too hard to believe.


—Amazing Ball Girl Catch

• What people think it is: An impressive wall-crawling catch from a minor-league baseball ball girl

• What it really is: An ad for Gatorade

• Agency behind it: Element 79

• Year created: 2008

• Views so far: 6.1 million on main YouTube clip

This viral video was reportedly even a surprise to the client. Having lost its creative responsibilities with Gatorade, Element 79's viral clip was expected to be shelved. But it was leaked online, where it quickly exploded and remains a frequently passed around clip. Shot during and after a real game between the Fresno Grizzlies and Tacoma Rainiers, the ad used a simple wire-and-harness rig to create the effect of the ball girl climbing the wall. According to Snopes, the once-shelved ad ended up running during the MLB All Star Game in July 2008.



• What people think it is: Amateur footage of an epic waterslide jump into a tiny swimming pool

• What it really is: A German ad promoting Microsoft Office Project 2007

• Agency behind it: Elbkind

• Year created: 2009

• Views so far: 6.8 million on main YouTube clip

It was billed as the test flight of an inventor's suit made from a "nearly frictionless" new material called Softslide, demonstrated with a heart-stopping (and, one might think, bone-breaking) 115-foot jump from a homemade water slide. But it didn't take bloggers and skeptical viewers long to debunk the video as a crafty mix of animation and multiple shots. Still, the camerawork is believeable enough to continue getting passed around years later as the real deal.


—Evan Longoria's Crazy Bare-Hand Catch

• What people think it is: Interview footage of Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria saving a reporter from an errant ball

• What it really is: An ad for Gillette, whose logo is seen over his shoulders

• Agency behind it: BBDO New York

• Year created: 2011

• View so far: 9.2 million on main YouTube clip

Chances are good that you've seen some version of this one getting passed around in your social networks, especially Facebook. A Vine version has been in heavy rotation lately, probably because it captures the seemingly psychic catch with little setup or context. But of course it's just an ad for Gillette. The brand connection is murky here, but perhaps it's meant to convey sharpness? Either way, it's a nicely enduring bit of visibility for the client and myth-making for Longoria. 


—Crash-Proof Motorcycle

• What people think it is: Slow-build news footage of a crash-proof motorcycle prototype

• What it really is: A U.K. road-safety ad for Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership

• Agency behind it: ST16

• Year created: 2010

• View so far: 3.2 million on main YouTube clip

It's low-budget and a bit cheesy, but for some reason that only makes this regional motorcycle-safety video more effective. The message, that technology only goes so far when it comes to avoiding disaster on the road, is one with universal appeal, and everyone loves a good (albeit grim) fail moment. The creators considered the video a success, largely because of how much discussion it sparked on motorcycle forums.

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