A fake walk across America

This is brilliant. And it also distorts the truth. This video professes to show a guy walking across America, strutting handsomely, in changing T-shirts but the same pair of jeans. Except the guy is a model, he didn’t really walk all the way across, and the images are a carefully staged compilation of 2,770 still photos shot between van trips — still a lot of work, but not a yearlong foot journey. The last shot shows him crossing off “walk across America” on his bucket list, with a closeup of the Levi’s back pocket. Guess what? Adweek editor Brian Morrissey says it was all sponsored by Levi’s.

So, is this cool? It’s free, after all. No one is hurt by the implied promise of a true story. Yet if we all know traditional advertising is fake, which is why we’re rushing to social media to find fresher, grittier, more realistic content, do we really want to find manipulated material there as well? It’s lovely art direction, Levi’s. But is seeding the Internet with fake virals about arduous adventures with no disclosure, well, really building brand loyalty?

P.S., if you want to see real truth, Christoph Rehage walked 4,646 kilometers across China. We can almost hear the Levi’s agency pitch meeting: Dudes, remember that crazy guy who hiked across Asia? We’ll film it in a month, except with your jeans. And our guy will have better hair.

3 thoughts on “A fake walk across America

  1. Hello, I was one of the filmmakers who helped produce this video. The idea was a short concept piece, not a documentary. If you watch the behind the scenes video which is on the YouTube channel, we don’t hide the fact that this was created in a series of still images highlighting various locations on our way across the country. Every day of the trip we would drive a bit, stop, get out and take photos, drive a bit, stop, get out and take photos. To me, it really does give you a 2min glimpse of what it would look like to walk across the country and this was our goal.

    If you want to get an idea what the trip was like you can read my blog post about it at:

    rippleview.com

    If it requires a password, just check back frequently as I have to get some of the behind the scenes clips approved.

    The concept was our idea and Levi’s goal was to give us complete creative freedom – to see what a group of artists could produce on their with little restraints. We had one contact with Levi’s to keep updated as to how the trip was going – other than that we were on our own.

    Levi’s basically paid for the RV and food, I got a small stipend out of the budget for 2 weeks of production on the road. We barely made it across the U.S. on the budget we were given due to some unforeseen technical issues as you’ll discover in some of the footage I posted. Everybody on the team sacrificed time and money to make this video happen.

    Having not seen most of the U.S. myself before this trip I think the end result is pretty cool. So in the end we’re personally really grateful to Levi’s for helping us as a group of artists create the piece we wanted to make and I think the sponsorship helps show – or at least promote – that Levi’s has a little heart.

    – Benji Newell, Camera Assistant
    “Guy Walks Across America”

  2. Benji,
    As a filmmaker (and one who funded his own film about bicycling across Canada, and it involved actual bicycling), I can’t tell you how offended I am at what you’ve done.

    I know that sounds harsh, but a lot of people are probably thinking the same thing. You duped the general public into passing around a video they thought was inspirational, but was actually completely fabricated to sell some jeans.

    I appreciate the situation you are in as a struggling film maker, but if your idea was to illustrate the experience of walking across the country, then start walking (or follow one of the many people that do this for real every year) because anything else is contrived. I have a feeling that even your story is B.S., because I don’t know a single filmmaker who would EVER come up with the idea of faking a video like this on their own without sponsorship. This whole thing seems fabricated from the start with sponsorship as the goal.

    Use your head, get some integrity and be honest to your viewer. This kinda shit isn’t helping anyone.

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