In 2009 when I was just getting started with social marketing I created the experimental video hoax that you see here. This started out with a debate between a friend who was a bit of a conspiracy theorist and myself . We had a debate about how he thought there were cameras in DTV converter boxes. He was convinced that this was why the government mandated the analog to digital switch. I told him that I was about to purchase such a box and I would open it up in order to convince him he was wrong. After getting my DTV converter box, I got to thinking. What if instead of proving him wrong I proved him right? Then I thought what if I filmed the entire thing and placed it on the web. After all, he was not the only one suspicious about these government mandated TV boxes. I opened my newly purchased DTV convert box then crudely glued a camera from an old discarded cell phone onto the device’s transformer. I then shared the video with a few friends via email and sat back and waited. Now I knew that this video would get a little bit of traction, but I had no idea that my little inside joke would get national attention.
After a few days, I almost forgot about the video then I decided to check my page and discovered I had about 200,000 views and 800 plus comments. Not long after that I started getting calls from reporters from all over the world interested in knowing if there was any truth to the video. I even heard my video replayed on the nationally syndicated Alex Jones talk show.
starting at 1:12
Then there was the call from Kevin Poulsen the former infamous black hat hacker turned Wired.com news editor followed by an interview at Wired http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/02/dtv-converters/
Then this video made its way to the Internets reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths Snopes.
I could not believe that my little minute and a half video shot on a cell phone camera had gone so viral. I also could not believe the passionate reactions people had both before and after this hoax was revealed on Wired.com. Initially, there were heated debates as to the authenticity of the video, and even after coming clean there were some defending the theory stating that there were only cameras in select boxes. Some demonized me for the hoax while other applauded my sense of humor. For awhile, there was even a rumor that Magnovox was going to pursue legal action against me. I have to admit that got me a little worried until I realized that this little video probably helped spike the sales of these DTV converter boxes. There were countless response videos showing people purchasing DTV convert boxes just to see if there was a camera inside.
All in all my little video experiment taught me how powerful the web can really be. No other medium levels the playing field and allows almost anyone to communicate their thoughts and ideas to the world like social media can.