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This Discovery Stunt Sparked Some Serious Shark Panic In Canada

No, there isn't a shark in Lake Ontario--it's just a Shark Week promo.

It came out of nowhere. A smartphone-shot YouTube video of a few dudes fishing in Lake Ontario, when all of a sudden a creature with a striking resemblance to a shark grabs a fish off one of the lines. Cue the public and media pulling a full Roy Scheider.

Except after almost a week of speculation, multiple mainstream media reports and even Ontario's Natural Resources Minister calling on people to report any suspicious fins to authorities, turns out it's all a marketing hoax. Yep, Shark Week.

Bell Media and Discovery teamed with agencies OMD and TBWA to get sharks on the brain of Canadian viewers, as well as promote an exclusive Nissan campaign called "In Search of Canada's Rogue Shark." It will run throughout Shark Week and explore the question of whether sharks could surface in the Great Lakes, with an interactive online experience launching on July 28.

The stunt had people speculating it was everything from a rogue shark to a harbor porpoise to a lake sturgeon. Canadians are probably just happy it wasn't a bomb scare during rush hour.

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2 Comments

  • mark

    Sigh. I am disappointed that some marketing professionals described this as "new territory" with "no rule book", suggesting that this may be why some are "testing boundaries" of viral marketing. In my opinion, this is a case of lack of awareness, not "lack of rule book". Loads has been written on public health effects of mass communication and social marketing. I think the authors of this hoax simply are unaware of the reams of research surrounding social marketing (and by extension, population health). Another good reason for people to consider "not just the wider implications of their actions" but also consider the value of interdisciplinary research and practice in their daily work. Sigh.