Agency's 'fake' cyclist sexism video 'a cautionary tale' for PR industry

The high-profile incident of an agency distributing a 'fake' video of a cyclist taking revenge against sexist men in a van has been described as a cautionary tale for the PR industry.

Viral: a screen grab from YouTube of the controversial video
Viral: a screen grab from YouTube of the controversial video

Jungle Creations, which specialises in creating online viral videos but denied it created this particular film, posted the video on its Facebook channel this week. It was subsequently reported by several publications including The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Independent and The Metro.

The video shows a female cyclist in London being insulted by men in a van. One man asks for her number and reaches out to her, before driving off. The cyclist later catches up with the van and removes a wing mirror.

The Guardian reported that Jungle Creations was asking for £400 to feature the video on the newspaper’s website, and £150 to publish it on its social media channels.

However, reports emerged on Reddit and elsewhere that the incident had been staged. The Sun quoted an eyewitness who said he saw actors receiving instructions before filming.

According to Jungle Creations’ website, the agency produces "original viral video concepts" by its "award winning in-house team", guaranteeing clients a minimum of one million views on each film. It has worked with major brands including Oreo, Doritos and Baileys.

On Wednesday, Jungle Creations published a statement, which said the cyclist video "may not be factually correct". The agency said it was not involved in making the video, which was received from a "third party content provider".

Jungle Creations said it "makes matters of this nature extremely seriously" and has removed the video from all its social channels, promising an internal investigation "to ensure that it does not happen again".

PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: "This should be a cautionary tale for all of those thinking of faking news - you are highly likely to be caught out.

"This kind of practice has no place in our industry, and is explicitly against the PRCA Code of Conduct. That's why when clients are looking for PR support, they should look for practitioners who have embraced the highest standards of professionalism and accountability."

PRWeek was unable to speak to Jungle Creations at the time of publication.

The incident has echoes of the so-called ‘sweatygate’ case in 2015, when an employee of the agency Fuel PR was used as a 'real life' case study for the media to promote one of its clients, antiperspirant brand Odaban. Fuel PR was subsequently expelled from the PRCA.

In November last year, French construction firm Vinci became the subject of a hoax press release that said its CFO had been sacked and that it would be restating its financial statements for 2015 and the first half of 2016.

It comes as the concept of fake news grows in prominence, particularly following controversial statements from President Trump that have been widely disputed, including reports of inflated attendance at his inauguration and a non-existent terrorist attack in Sweden last week.

PRWeek reported today that The New York Times has launched a campaign that tackles fake news.

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