This Popular Vlogger Died in a Shocking Car Crash Live on YouTube. Or Did She?

Ashley Waxman Bakshi's video raises troubling questions

You're watching your favorite beauty vlogger broadcast live as she drives her car around town. She looks away from the road to check her phone and read questions from fans.

Suddenly, the picture goes haywire, and the vlogger screams amid sounds of shrieking metal and smashing glass. She's apparently been involved in a devastating crash. The scene fades to black.

When this horrifying bit of video streamed live on Dec. 16, some 2,500 users were looking on in horror and dismay, shocked by what had evidently occurred.

Thankfully, it was only an ad—a PSA from Or Yarok (the Association for Safer Driving in Israel) featuring local YouTube star Ashley Waxman Bakshi. After 10 seconds, she reappeared on screen, live in every sense of the word, to explain what was going on and warn viewers about the dangers of distracted driving.

The "crash," and Bakshi's lengthy in-car vlogging session about cosmetics that led into the carnage, consisted of pre-filmed footage.

Here's a case study video that puts the project in perspective:

Below is the original vlog video in Hebrew. The "crash" takes place about six minutes in. It's not graphic, but such completely unexpected violence packs considerable impact.

"The sell to Ashley Waxman Bakshi was a very short one," Eva Hasson, strategic planning information specialist at BBR Saatchi & Saatchi in Tel Aviv, which developed the campaign, tells AdFreak. "She was passionate about the idea from the get go—not least because she herself had been involved in a car accident just the week before, an accident caused by the other driver texting while driving."

At first, the client voiced concerns that the approach might be too sensationalistic.

"But ultimately they understood that to get through to this relatively young audience, a commercial would not do," says Hasson. "These guys have seen all the 'Don't text and drive' ads a dozen times, and have been undeterred to part with their bad habits. Or Yarok was convinced that getting through to this audience would require a shock tactic that really hit home."

By the next day, more than 57,000 users had viewed the clip across all platforms. Hasson says both parents and teens have, by and large, approved of the unconventional technique.

Of course, intense PSAs that manipulate emotions, often with startling reveals, are nothing new. AT&T's lauded "It Can Wait" drives this same road. That said, the audacious decision to "kill" a beloved celebrity during an apparently live broadcast—and the eagerness to deceive its overwhelmingly young viewers, even for a few seconds—is a different kind of trip that raises profound questions despite its good intentions.

Does the campaign cross a line? With "fake news"—and fakery of all kinds—plaguing the internet, and public trust in various institutions by some measures at all-time lows, doesn't this reality-bending excursion just add to the confusing noise and clutter it was designed to break through?

"Going too far would have meant holding out on the fans and taking away all identifiers that this was actually an ad—like the logo and message," Hasson says. "Leaving fans hanging on the edge of their seats for hours would have been going overboard. That's why we gave it 10 seconds and went back on air with Ashley explaining what had happened."

She adds: "Judging from the moms' comments, this probably was just inside the boundaries of acceptable—but a well delivered lesson."

CREDITS

Chief Executive Officer: Yossi Lubaton

Chief Creative Officer: Jonathan Lang

VP Creative Director: Idan Regev

Creative Director: Idan Levy

Social & Digital Creative Director: Idan Kligerman