Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is expressing concern about a marketing stunt that had people thinking a shark may be lurking in Lake Ontario.
A YouTube video purporting to show three men surprised by a shark while fishing off a dock was posted a week ago, but it was only on Wednesday that Bell Media revealed it fabricated the video to build hype for the Discovery channel’s upcoming Shark Week programming.
Real or not, the video had some in Wolfe Island, Ont., afraid of swimming and also prompted Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Bill Mauro to warn that people should stay safe and report any sightings of the animal.
Wynne says she can’t comment on the tactic the company used, but says people who produce ads and promote them need to use common sense when they try to entice or frighten people.
She says everyone needs to recognize that people can get scared by what they’re seeing and they need to quickly be able to understand what’s really going on.
The premier says the turnaround needs to be quick enough so people don’t actually become terrified.
Some local residents on Wolfe Island, where the video was supposed to have been filmed, said the video had frightened them.
It’s concerning that somebody would come up with a wild hoax
Upon learning the video was a fake, Wolfe Island Mayor Denis Doyle said it was rather concerning that people “do those kinds of such dumb things.”
“It’s concerning that somebody would come up with a wild hoax,” said Doyle, who had previously insisted that the rumoured shark was the equivalent of the Loch Ness monster. “I guess it gets a little personal with some people … I think they probably intended it in good fun.”
Those behind the fake video said they decided to come clean after seeing the frenzy of speculation sparked by the clip.
A Bell Media news release on Wednesday sought to “quell the concerns of Canadians,” informing them that the creature in the footage was actually an “incredibly life-like prosthetic model shark.” Before the revelation Wednesday afternoon, University of Guelph marine biologist Jim Ballantyne said the creature portrayed in the video couldn’t be a shark — judging from the way it moved. Prof. Ballantyne said it looked more like a harbour porpoise, judging from its up and down movement through the water.
“It sort of seems a bit unethical to frighten people,” he said Wednesday, after learning of the prank.
Paul Lewis, Discovery’s president and general manager, said his team started working on the concept six weeks ago with the full intention of making the video “go viral.”
If we upset anybody, of course I apologize for that
“[But] we didn’t want it to be something that would negatively impact people’s summer,” he said. When his team saw reports about concerns in Wolfe Island Wednesday, Mr. Lewis decided the responsible call was to cut the marketing campaign short and announce the video was a fake.
“It’s unfortunate that some people took what we did so serious,” Mr. Lewis said. “If we upset anybody, of course I apologize for that.
“It would be totally counterproductive for us to go out there and upset and disturb our audience.”
Erin Whalen, a waitress at a restaurant on Wolfe Island, said Tuesday she heard her customers talk about multiple sightings of a bull shark as well as a video of the creature.