Hey New Yorkers, remember that naked guy in running shoes eating tacos in Williamsburg? In September, you may have spotted his YouTube videos on Gawker or Huffington Post, or seen his bare speedy booty -- he calls himself the World's Fastest Nudist -- firsthand in Union Square Park. Anderson Cooper even put that strategically placed fanny pack on CNN. Well, our fair city's other nude sensation the Naked Cowboy can rest easy. The WFN isn't a real New York wacko exhibitionist; he's a marketing stunt courtesy of Zappos, the online retailer.
His latest video, released on his YouTube page last week, shows the Nudist attempting to topple yet another nude world record, only to be accosted by a surprise Zappos team in a black van. After guys in baseball caps capture the running fool and make a quick escape, the Nudist is nude no more. He's standing stunned and fully clad next to a pile of Zappos boxes. New York-based agency Agent 16 and production company Bullet are behind the WFN videos that document his city jaunts and are intended to promote the fact that the e-tailer, which was recently acquired by Amazon, does indeed sell more than shoes. Zappos has sold clothing since 2007, but is still prominently known as a shoe seller.
The thrill of naked guys in public aside, this marketing scheme did involve a bit of trickery. While some videos look like they've been recorded by passersby on phone cameras, professional videographers were actually on hand to film the streaking. And, WFN is hardly a nudist at all. His name is not even Donnie! He's an actor named Kyle Overstreet.
So, is Coop at CNN feeling a little duped? Would he have put the WFN on air if he knew it was a marketing stunt? This isn't the first time a campaign-posing-as-reality was reported as news -- though the internet should really know that by now.
In June, Gawker sent out invitations to a party to celebrate it's acquisition of Bloodcopy, a blog for vampires, and Business Insider reported the acquisition. When Biz Insider realized that the "news" was instead a marketing campaign for HBO's True Blood, man, were they pissed. As a reporter who followed this story myself, a little digging around would have revealed that the agency behind the Blair Witch Project, Campfire, created Bloodcopy for HBO a year ago.
While some may blame sneaky advertising and others poor reporting, the New York Times tells us that Mr. Overstreet, the WFN actor, gave a local Brooklyn reporter a false name and claimed he won a race that didn't exist when interviewed about his naked running. Hmm, lying to the press? That might complicate things for Zappos -- and the entire genre of reality-bending viral videos for that matter.