Is the Amazing Seagull Video a Marketing Hoax?

A charming new YouTube video purports to show a seagull stealing a woman's camera and catching a view of a San Francisco sunset, all before placing the camera back on the ground for her to retrieve. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is.

Multiple media outlets have reported the camera that caught the video is the property of a Nathalie Rollandin from France. Rollandin describes her experience with the seagull in the description of the video, uploaded to YouTube Sept. 2: "Funny video of how a seagull stole my GoPro, flew over the water in front of Golden Gate Bridge and how the camera incredibly managed to survive, recording everything!"

Either animals have a liking for GoPro cameras, or this is a hoax. Just over a year ago, another seagull in Cannes, France, supposedly filmed a different scenic and highly viral video, uploaded on June 23, 2011, with the exact same brand of camera before also depositing that camera in a retrievable location.

The separate owners of those two seagull-borne cameras seem to have independently chosen to feature the brand name of their cameras in the title of their YouTube videos. [10 Hoax Videos Debunked]

On May 23, 2011, one month before last summer's GoPro-carrying seagull video, another supposed GoPro owner posted a video in which a lioness picks up the camera with her mouth and carries it through the bush. That video now has over 400,000 views and includes information on where to buy GoPros in its description.

Another popular video, posted in August, shows what is purported by the uploader to be GoPro footage of a pod of actual, and not CGI, dolphins.

When Life's Little Mysteries investigated the dolphin video's authenticity, the GoPro team said they had nothing to do with it.

"This video was 100 percent user-generated and is not part of any GoPro marketing," Adam Selwyn, a PR representative at GoPro, told Life's Little Mysteries. "We shared the video through our Facebook channel on August 9th and also saw a huge increase of views and likes. Obviously we are delighted to see the videos success as we are constantly impressed and amazed by our fans' and users' creativity and ability to capture amazing content."

But Brent Coker, an Internet marketing expert at the University of Melbourne in Australia, said the video appeared to be a viral marketing scheme. "If I were making a viral movie, then I wouldn't confess to it being professionally produced," Coker said. "As soon as people know it's fake, it loses momentum. Of course, after the movie has reached critical mass, then it doesn't matter. If people learn it's actually an advanced advertisement in the early stages, then it can kill it."

The San Francisco seagull video now has over 67,000 views.

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Live Science Staff
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