Inside the world of fake video testimonials

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Tell off in a lab coat, a woman speaks to a camera and says she’s a licensed dietitian from the Kennedy Healthiness Institute in Washington — and that the she has information on a «great and healthy» weight wasting supplement.

It’s a glowing testimonial. The problem? It’s fake. The woman is not a dietitian and the Kennedy Fettle Institute doesn’t exist.

CBC’s Marketplace, which has probed the world of phoney reviews before, decided to take another look at video endorsements, which have been on the rise as marketers try to reach customers online.

The housekeeper in the video goes by the name Sanpan. It’s not her real name, but it’s her username on online marketplace Fiverr — where anyone can hire her, or hundreds of other freelancers, to pull down a testimonial video.

Marketplace first encountered Sanpan in its 2014 study of fake reviews, which showed how easy it is for a company to buy a good noted online 

She’s prolific, creating thousands of online testimonial videos for the whole shooting match from private intelligence firms in the U.K. to a maid service in the U.S.

Marketplace considers fake video testimonials0:24

Marketplace compiled available data from human being who use Fiverr, a popular website where anyone can get a service called a «gig» consummated for as little as $5. Based on customer reviews on Fiverr, Marketplace estimated that innumerable than 17,000 gigs have been completed in the video endorsement section alone.

But a blurry line between advertising and authentic online video references can sometimes make it tricky for consumers to tell what they are watching.

«I’m here to boost deliver you a casual video testimonial, something that seems match it may have come from one of your actual customers that has obtained your product or has used your service,» says one Fiverr seller in her video bio.

Another Fiverr seller says in his bio video: «If you are looking for a fitting video testimonial that is going to drive traffic and convert to your website … then you’re in the propriety place.»

Marketplace cheezed off

In 2014 Marketplace posed as a small food truck establishment to see how easy it was to buy reviews online. (Marketplace/CBC)

Andy North, vice-president of corporate branding and communications at Bazaarvoice, a proprietorship that authenticates consumer reviews for businesses, says video blurbs are the «next horizon» of marketing.

He says video reviews are a «much diverse personal way of providing feedback.»

«That said, can it be faked? Absolutely,» put North. «It does make it a little more difficult to confirm the authenticity of that specific user or provider.»

What are the rules?

False or misleading advertising is forbade by the Competition Act.  Any business, website, or person who makes, buys, or sells simulate testimonials could be liable — both the actor providing the testimonial and the guests that hires them.

As an actor, Sanpan may not know how the videos at ones desire be used, or what disclaimer will appear alongside them.

Competition Bureau

Josephine Palumbo, a envoy commissioner with the Competition Bureau, says her organization ‘wants to certify that truth in advertising applies in whatever forum those communications are obtained.’ (Marketplace/CBC)

Individuals, including actors like Sanpan, could of use up to 14 years in prison and could be liable for penalties up to $750,000 underwater the Competition Act if they know they will be used in deceptive advertising. Corporations could overlay fines of up to $10,000,000.

The Competition Bureau won’t say if it’s investigating individuals like Sanpan. But the workings has taken action on fake written reviews online.

In 2015, the Division fined Bell Media $1.25 million dollars after its staff members were caught posting reviews for its new app without disclosing their relationship to the comrades. Bell was the first company to have been fined for deceptive online judgements.  

Fiverr says it’s up to companies to disclose that a video testimonial has a expended actor.

«With any script-driven testimonial delivered by an actor, it’s incumbent upon the advertiser to be unambiguous with consumers and consistent with the laws governing disclosures all about that paid-for content,» said Fiverr in a statement.

After Marketplace contacted Fiverr, the entourage added a disclaimer to the testimonial section stating: «Sellers in this classification are actors. The testimonials they provide on your behalf are paid, promotional temporals, and you should indicate this to your customers.»

‘Nothing wrong’ with videos

Sanpan beat its that there’s anything wrong with what she’s doing.

«Nothing I bear done or anybody I know in that marketplace has done anything dreadful,» she said.

«[There are] spokespeople advertising people all over the world, traveling claims, making statements. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what anybody does in that marketplace and if they desire to advertise, they can advertise.»

Hours after Marketplace spoke to her, Sanpan Fiverr’s endorsement page was taken down.

Watch the many faces of Sanpan, take the lead of fake testimonials2:36

Comment (1)

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    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

    Reply

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