Domestic ‘Abuse’ Timelapse: A Serbian Woman Taking Horrendous Selfies Is Just Another Marketing Stunt
At first glance, the background music and setup of the video look familiar: another person on YouTube doing a time lapse video of themselves in the most vain way possible – capturing an entire year’s worth of selfies.
Soon, however, you realize that something’s different about this effort. The woman in the video is not showing off her fashion wardrobe, or even the changing seasons.
Rather, she’s sharing an intimate look into what she terms, “One photo a day in the worst year of my life” – or in Serbian, “Jedna fotografija dnevno u najgoroj godini života” – all in an apparent effort to shed light into the dark world of domestic abuse sufferers.
Netizens As Easy To Dupe As Ever
As the horrifying video progresses, viewers witness the attractive young woman’s face grow evermore contused with bumps, bruises, scratches, and – eventually – open wounds, until near the end of the video the woman’s left eye appears so badly injured that she can barely open it, as she tearfully holds up a sign that loosely translates to mean, “Help me. I do not know if tomorrow will come.”
Despite being over a year old now, hundreds of blogs and websites continue to circulate the video, as thousands of internet users discuss how to save the poor girl, and rumors abound that police in eastern Europe are searching desperately to find her.
The only problem? The video is fake.
In the age of click-bait journalism, it seems that few people have the time or sense to put in two minutes of due diligence research. Instead, stories like this one – which went viral in part due to its appearance on Reddit – are surrounded with false rumors – for example, that the woman is from Croatia, or that she’s planning to kill herself.
Approximately one month after the video was released, Belgrade-based marketing agency Saatchi & Saatchi came forward to claim responsibility for the project, which was put together on behalf of their client, B92, a Serbian non-profit organization apparently focused on fighting domestic violence against women, among other goals.
Telegraf.rs, a magazine based in Belgrade, was actually able to identify and contact the woman in the video within three days of it being published on YouTube in March 2013, who they identified as a fashion model who lived and worked in Italy:
When we called her, Mia was visibly upset and surprised how on the Earth we managed to get to her, because it was more than obvious, that the creators of this project attempted to conceal the identities of people who had made this disturbing video.
“How did you find me? Sorry, I can’t tell you anything, nothing at all. The last few days, were completely crazy! Please understand me, when I say that I wouldn’t like to give any official statements on this occasion,” said Hujic.
But of course, none of this seems to have reached the millions of people – or websites – that continue to perpetuate this story many months later.
Viral Marketing: Where Is The Line?
Takeaway: despite clear signs that YouTube user fero061982 seemed to be a fake account, and that her “domestic abuse” time-lapse video appears professionally edited with perfect lighting and exceptional photography skills, the majority of the internet was easily duped into believing it was real. Surely, its not the first nor will it be the last time that a clever viral marketing gig or April’s Fools Day joke is successfully executed.
That being said – when does viral marketing cross the line?
In September 2013, an organization called FORCE with the slogan “Upsetting Rape Culture” contacted CollegeTimes using fake email addresses @playboyco.com pretending to represent Playboy Magazine, promoting an alleged marketing event, “Top Ten Party Commandments: The Ultimate Guide for a Consensual Good Time!”
Their goal was simple: to piss off Playboy enough to get national media attention, and hopefully embarrass the magazine – and any other company that promotes female sexualization – for encouraging a so-called “rape culture” in the United States. (They even setup a fake Playboy website, with a falsified interview with Hugh Hefner himself.)
Needless to say, the CollegeTimes team was quick to spot the scam and ignored the fake inquiries. Over the next few days, FORCE played up their “trick” with much fanfare, getting mentioned in a variety of blogs and magazines for their efforts.
Now, are the intentions of a group like FORCE commendable? Most definitely. Rape, like domestic abuse, is a horrible thing that should be publicly addressed by governments and victims alike. But at what point do these so-called viral marketing campaigns just make their organizers look desperate and stupid – or worse, hypocritical?
Frankly, I’m not sure. However, it just doesn’t seem like trickery, jokes, or internet memes are the best way to promote certain topics (i.e. the naked feminist dichotomy). After all, we’ll never know how many concerned police officers or world citizens were – or still are – scrambling to find the supposed “domestic abuse” victim in Serbia.
Does The End Justify The Means?
Back in December 2012, Serbia ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence which now obligates their government to track incidents of violence. And those numbers are some of the highest in the world, in a country still hugely traumatized by the effects of war.
And you wanna know the truth? I would never have researched any of this information unless I came across that fake viral video to begin with.