Who Can You Trust?

I’ve heard it said that one of the great things about the internet is that you don’t have to believe the marketing and advertising “BS” of companies – you can get the truth from people you trust, people like you. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that, unless you know someone personally, it’s very difficult to know who to trust on the web. Book reviews on Amazon? Apparently reviewers are enticed by free products and so it’s in their interest to write positively. Endorsements for the healing properties of acai berries or the wonders of various diet pills? Mostly written by marketers on sites that pretend to be independent.

And it’s not just the written word that’s difficult to authenticate. There have been a few videos that went viral which are hard to tell if they’re for real or not. Here are a couple: take a look and see what you think?

I was taken in by the “I love cats” one at first, although when Debbie said she likes to see them on rainbows a little alarm bell rang. Dating site eHarmony said it’s not a video on their website and “Debbie” also has another obviously spoof video on youtube about her as a Siamese cat, so I think this one’s a spoof too by a good actress. Oddly, it’s quite a good plug for eHarmony which wouldn’t have been nearly as effective if it had transpired that this was a fake video produced by them.

As for the Russian talent show arrow, I’m still not sure. I’ve read a theory that it’s a viral video promoting the can of drink on the man’s head, in which case it’s a clever piece of video editing. I hope that’s the case. If it’s for real, I apologise for showing something rather gruesome and I hope the poor chap is OK.

Photographs can also be misleading. Take the famous picture snapped in Vancouver recently. It’s a fabulous photograph but was this couple really kissing in the middle of a riot or was it a good use of Photoshop?

Well apparently the man, Australian Scott Jones was out with his Canadian girlfriend for a drink that evening. When they came out of the pub they were inadvertently caught up in the riots. She was knocked to the ground by police riot shields and was understandably distressed. To calm her down, Jones spoke to her gently and gave her a kiss. He was simply an Aussie looking after his sheila – good on yer mate. So it’s a genuine picture but perhaps the emotions in the kiss were not what we first imagined.

Of course there are some pictures that are very obviously just Photoshop fails – if you google “Photoshop fails” you’ll find a lot of images of people with three arms etc. My favourite is one that came to light this week in China – supposedly officials inspecting a new road.

The photo has prompted a deluge of ridicule of the government in China, which just a few years ago would have been unthinkable.

There’s a lesson in all this for organisations; honest marketing is best. Doctored pictures or made up reviews will probably be found out eventually, which is embarrassing and will damage the brand. Trust me.

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