Last week a video surfaced on YouTube, which featured a trio of men fishing from Wolfe Island on Lake Ontario. The clip made significant waves online and throughout the local community as it captured what appeared to be a shark swimming in fresh water. As the one-and-a-half minute video quickly ascended to viral status, the myth was promptly busted as its creators admitted the rare encounter with a shark in Lake Ontario was in fact a prank orchestrated in support of the Discovery’s Channel’s Shark Week. Many breathed a sigh of relief, some celebrated the hoax with their own parodies, while others went on the offensive, criticizing those responsible for stirring up fear and controversy.
Premier Kathleen Wynne cautioned imitators by stating: “…(I) can’t comment on the tactic the company used, but people who produce ads and promote them need to use common sense when they try to entice or frighten people.” Mayor Mark Gerretsen somberly responded: “Thanks, Discovery Channel! Where do I send the bill for using up my office staff time dealing with panicked members of the community?!” Wolfe Island’s Mayor, Denis Doyle, was equally as unimpressed with the faked shark in Lake Ontario, calling the hoax “rather concerning”.
The prank’s creators, Bell Media, responded that they did not think that people would take the video seriously. Their official press release attempted to quell fears and outrage concerning the supposed shark in Lake Ontario as follows:
It’s O.K., Canada. Summer swimming activities can resume as normal. Discovery wants to quell the concerns of Canadians everywhere and reveal that the widely-circulated video of a shark swimming in Lake Ontario is, in fact, not a real shark. The video of the incredibly life-like prosthetic model shark is the first stage of a multi-level marketing campaign tied to the channel’s iconic summer event, Shark Week.
The ruse wouldn’t be complete without the “shark” having its very own Twitter, @sharktario, which boasts that the fictitious finned monster is “Just cruising Lake Ontario…. Looking for ankles”. Considering the wide range of responses to the controversial shark in Lake Ontario prank, this week’s poll asks:
Was the Lake Ontario shark prank in bad taste?
- No, it was all in good fun. (33%, 59 Votes)
- I hate these ad pranks. (28%, 51 Votes)
- Um... people actually fell for that? (25%, 45 Votes)
- Yes. I was genuinely scared. (13%, 24 Votes)
- Don't pay them any attention. (1%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 180
While I managed to ignore the video for the longest time, the speculation from so many friends falling hook, line and sinker ultimately proved to be too much and I caved. While I was certainly impressed with the amateur footage, I don’t think I would go so far as to say that I was tricked into thinking the shark in Lake Ontario was actually real. How did you respond to the hoax before learning that it was simply an elaborate publicity stunt? Do you think marketers need to dial down their efforts and pay a bit more respect to our collective safety and sanity? Or, are you for these sorts of pranks and still holding out hope that the shark in Lake Ontario will surface again?
Photo credit to Andrea Schwalm.