One of the hottest viral videos of the last couple of days shows a man in a neoprene suit on a DIY waterslide, flying 115 feet and then landing safely in a kiddie pool. It’s accumulated more than 1.4 million views since it got uploaded to YouTube last week, and reactions were all over the place, ranging from dropped jaws to sheer amazement to a more cynical, “Nah, this can’t be real.”
And, after a bit of investigating, we’ve verified that it indeed wasn’t. The video was a carefully crafted viral ad for Microsoft’s Office
suite Project 2007, and the production of the clip involved, among other things, a stuntman, a lot of editing, and a long piece of rope. Read on for more details about the campaign as well as an exclusive snippet of unedited video from the waterslide shoot.
Here’s the back story of the waterslide video in a nutshell — or at least, what we were supposed to believe: German engineer Bruno Kammerl came up with a special type of neoprene material dubbed Softslide that his web site describes as “almost frictionless.” Kammerl’s goal was to build the longest and most exciting waterslide in the world. He started off with some tests, published videos about it on YouTube, and publicly searched for investors. Then an “influential sponsor” came along and made it possible to test the slide in the German Alps, which led to the video we’ve all seen.
Of course, that’s all bogus. Kammerl’s web site was registered in May by an employee of the German subsidiary of marketing giant MRM Worldwide. Chatter about this connection popped up online only a few days after the waterslide video started to become popular, and MRM Worldwide quickly decided to lift the curtain. Microsoft’s logo was added to Kammerl’s Megawoosh.com web site late last week, and MRM Germany CEO Alexander Ewig finally fessed up to his company’s involvement in a press release emailed to us today, saying: “We developed Megaswoosh as a viral campaign for Microsoft Germany.”
“This revelation was supposed to come a little later,” I was told by Maik Koenigs, whose Hamburg-based viral marketing agency Elbkind was hired by MRM to seed the video onto more than 60 sites. However, bloggers were too quick to make the connection, so there had to be a change of plans. “Viral communication is a dynamic process,” he explained, adding that the outcome was still beyond everyone’s expectations. The campaign was just meant to be for a German audience, but has gotten Twitter, blog and mainstream media responses from all over the world.
So how was the video really done? As some bloggers guessed, it’s a case of creative compositing, meaning that the clip we get to see is based on multiple elements that were combined together to create a final video. A stuntman slides down the slide, secured by a rope. Then there’s a body flying through the air, which is animated. And finally, the big splash. “He actually jumped from a wooden ramp into the pool,” explained Koenigs. Of course, you don’t get to see any of this in the final clip, thanks to careful editing that makes it look like a single take.
Here’s a short, unedited clip that shows how the stuntman filling in for Kammerl is sliding down part of the slide for a first segment of the final video:
So yeah, all you doubters are right: It’s fake. But it’s a pretty elaborate deception, and it certainly looks real enough for a willing suspension of disbelief. Of course, one can debate whether this will really help to sell Microsoft Office, but it’s undoubtedly been a successful viral video.