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Pepsi and Jeff Gordon Go Back to the Viral Video Well, With Help From Gawker

A hidden camera prank worked great last year. Why not repeat it?

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Last year, Pepsi had a big viral YouTube hit with a clip that showed Nascar driver Jeff Gordon, in disguise, taking a car salesman on a crazy drive.

The fact that the video, which was supposedly captured on a hidden camera, was a fake, didn’t matter — because we don’t really care if our viral videos are fakes. It generated some 40 million views on YouTube, whose executives pointed to it as the best kind of “native” ad-as-content execution.

So now Pepsi and Gordon are back. This time the conceit is that they are pranking Travis Okulski, the writer for Gawker Media’s Jalopnik blog who depantsed the original video as a fraud last year.

This time Okulski swears everything you see below is real. And if it isn’t, who cares? It’s still a fun video, and Pepsi will get lots of views.

I am little curious to know if Gawker benefits from participating in the stunt beyond promotion for the site. I’ll let you know if the company responds. It is worth noting that the clip features former Jalopnik editor Ray Wert, who now runs Tiny Toy Car, an ad agency that’s supposed to specialize in “branded content”.

Update: Joel Johnson, Gawker Media’s editorial director, says the video is not tied to an advertising buy for any of the Gawker sites. “We don’t put our editorial staff in sponsored content on our sites”, he writes. Here’s more:

“Travis didn’t get any payment for his (unexpected, to him) appearance, and we covered all his expenses out of our editorial budget. We knew it was going to be used in advertising, so we kept a clean line, but the prank was too good not to pull. (This was all handled internally by me and Matt Hardigree, Jalopnik’s EIC.)

“Gawker sales will, of course, continue to work with Pepsi as always.”

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