Hoax videos are pretty trendy right now. You probably heard about the Jerusalem UFO videos, which many have labeled as the work of well-organized pranksters. Or maybe you heard about the Central Park iPhone marriage proposal that ultimately turned out to be staged. Either way, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a hoax video lately, and the trend shows no signs of stopping.

The most common problem marketers face when choosing this hoax route is the potential for audience backlash–if the viewers feel too duped, or too upset about it, your positive viral publicity could blow up in your face. I thought it might be fun take a look at two different variations on a hoax concept, both of which are recent videos that manage to avoid the problem of audience backlash in their own ways.

The Fake Head-Shaving Helmet

First, we have the head-shaving helmet video, which I included in last Friday’s viral round up article. If you missed it, take a look:

The video is barely a week old, and is already over 800,000 views. That’s pretty impressive for a couple of guys just making inventions. Except that the video isn’t from a couple of guys making inventions… it’s from a brand. This week the video’s creators have come forward and admitted the helmet is fake.

Created by Thinkmodo, the entire point of the video was to help generate buzz surrounding a new product from a company called “HeadBlade“. The little yellow razors inside the fake helmet? Those are the actual products the company is hoping to sell.

There’s even a behind-the-scenes video to show how they pulled off the fake–spoiler alert… it was twins!

I’m pretty impressed with the whole thing. The trickery is playful and was revealed within days of the original video–which means these guys weren’t dragging it out with false assertions that the helmet was real. Just a fun video, some fan speculation, and then the truth comes out. CNN did a great story on the whole thing a day or two ago, and I’d have to assume all this free publicity will help HeadBlade get their business off on the right foot.

I’m talking with the creative team behind the video to line up an interview about how the hoax was conceived, planned, executed, and received by the client, so stay tuned for that in the near future.

The Waterfall Illusion

Another hoax video went about things in a different way–that is, the creator isn’t even trying to make you think his video is real. Instead, it’s kind of an optical illusion. He’s created an MC Escher fountain that not only defies the laws of gravity, it reverses them. Take a look:

Okay, so obviously this thing isn’t real. It’s impossible. Mathematically… physically… it simply can’t exist. So the point with this “hoax” isn’t really to trick us at all. The point is to drive us crazy trying to figure out how he did it.

Is it CG? Is it carefully constructed camera angles? Fancy editing? My guess is that it’s a combination of all three, but the finished product is far better than the average hoax video–even the shadows seem to be right.

The clip was uploaded in January, but only recently started gaining views, and I believe it’s poised for viral success. There’s no brand being promoted, as far as I can see. Just an enterprising and talented guy creating something that is just mind-boggling. Heck, he’ll probably get a props job or effects job at a Hollywood studio by the end of the week.

The trick with hoax videos is to avoid angering your audience. You want them to debate whether your video is real or not–which will drive up views–but you don’t want them so passionate that they turn against you once you announce it was all a gag. It’s not an easy tight-rope to walk, but these two videos serve as excellent examples of how it can be done.