This thing was all over my Facebook feed. Awkward, cute, strange. I watched it, curious about the backstory… who would think to do such a thing? With over 46 million views as of this morning, it’s a viral sensation, capturing a moment of pure… something.
ABC News was particularly taken with the video.
The short film is presented by the Los Angeles-based women’s clothing company Wren. CEO and Founder Melissa Coker enlisted her old high school friend Pilieva to help her round up 20 people they would put in front of a camera to share a real life “first kiss” scenario.
What came next was an awkward, yet strangely fascinating three-and-a-half-minute montage of kisses between young, old, straight, gay, lesbian and biracial pairings.
All of the participants were friends of Coker and Pilieva who live in Los Angeles, and while they range from actors to models to singers, Pilieva said none of them were paid for the advertisement.
Ok. We’ve got a company, actors and such, a freebie project. But then things turned a tad curious.
The New York Times best summed up the situation with a story reporting the beautiful, viral vid was, indeed, an ad for a clothing company.
Melissa Coker, 35, the founder and creative director of the clothing company Wren, commissioned the video to showcase her clothing line’s fall collection for Style.com’s Video Fashion Week. Style.com had created the video series for brands that might lack the financial wherewithal to put on a runway show during Fashion Week.
Did it work? Yup.
Ms. Coker said that there’s been a “significant bump” in sales on Wren’s online store since the video made its debut. And the song accompanying the video, Soko’s “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow,” sold 10,000 copies in North America on Tuesday and Wednesday. Her album also sold an additional 1,000 copies, said Bryan Ling, the co-president of Community Music, which licensed Soko’s album in North America.
In her defense, there’s this:
And Ms. Coker said that there was no intention of hiding her company’s involvement. The video flashes “Wren presents” at the beginning and also mentions the company in the credits. “There was no part of it where this was a secret,” Ms. Coker said.
Time Magazine is not amused.
The bigger issue here is that the video (and the hype surrounding it) only adds to the growing phenomenon of things on the internet not being what they appear to be. Yes, this sounds silly because the whole point of the internet is that almost all of it is not what it claims to be, but increasingly that truism has spread to videos. Jimmy Kimmel has been praised and castigated in equal measures thanks to his hoax videos. This is not that. Viewers were not explicitly tricked. These are strangers, and they are kissing—that’s not what’s in dispute.
That’s what will upset people the most once they realize the video is an advertisement designed to get them to buy something. They weren’t hoaxed or tricked, they were shown something that presented itself as unique, something that was widely described as beautiful. Now they know that what they watched is no different from what they see every other time they watch a video on the internet or turn on a television.
They have a valid point.
So… good? Bad? As a copywriter, I’d say it was rather good. The fact they didn’t hide the branding, to me, makes the project one heck of an effective viral ad effort. The fact people didn’t really notice the whole “Wren Presents” at the beginning makes it an even more interesting case study, considering the jump in sales.
Down side? They’ve angered a few people. (But, the bigger question is whether these people were Wren’s target audience.) The people in the vid weren’t “walk off the street” folks. They were models and/or actors. Also, the branding at the beginning of the film? The whole “Wren Presents” thingie? Yeah. It’s on the vid for a very short time. So, it could be construed as a tad misleading.
Either way, I have a hunch we’ll see more of these in the future. Heck, we’ve even got a parody, giving the original vid even more traction. NSFW, btw:
Turns out, at least some of the attractive strangers (why are they always attractive strangers?!) are actually models or actors. Slate has identified a few of them, which makes us feel better knowing that not every person plucked off the street looks like he stepped out of an Urban Outfitters catalog.
True love is dead and everything is just a cynical plot to extract your money, it emerged today, when the First Kiss video featuring “strangers” making out was found to be just a commercial for an autumn/winter clothing line.