Was Amazon’s viral hit drone video — released this past Cyber Monday and which currently has nearly 5 million views — a well-played hoax? Some reporters and video viewers are raising questions about the authenticity of the footage, while Amazon stands by the validity of the content.
The video tells the story of a young girl whose soccer shoe has been eaten by the family dog, Stewart, on the day of a game and her father must order her a replacement to be delivered in 30 minutes by Amazon’s Prime Air drone. Narrated by Jeremy Clarkson, the former host of the wildly popular BBC series “Top Gear,” the video spot claims that the footage of the drone and its flight — in which it was carrying the Puma sneaker cargo, as well as a dog bone for Stewart — is real.
However, shortly after Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s article went live on Fortune‘s site earlier this week, readers started to raise red flags in the comments section of the article about whether the footage was “actual flying footage” of a drone carrying the shoe cargo it was purported to be by Amazon. According to “Frank”, one of DeWitt’s regular readers and commenters: “While the video claims to be ‘ACTUAL FLIGHT FOOTAGE, NOT SIMULATED,’ something is not right. The videographer is obviously using perspective illusion to simulate a full-size drone in operation.” Frank ends on a valid point: “While this might not be a simulated flight and everything in it is entirely truthful, it does not mean that what the viewer perceives and remembers has not been tweaked using skillful and willful deception techniques.”
Amazon fired back against such claims, stating, “It’s absolutely carrying the exact brand of sneakers that’s in the video,” company spokesperson Kristen Kish told Fortune. “As well as a dog bone.” Nearly two years after CEO Jeff Bezos announced Amazon would be working on a drone prototype to expedite on-demand delivery of items to shoppers in key markets, the video was the first sign that the company had made actual progress. However, if suspicions persist around the video, the viral hit may turn into a PR snafu for the eCommerce giant.
It is worth noting that a Lockheed Martin spokesperson was contacted by Fortune but refused to comment on the video, instead chuckling as he watched. That response itself might speak volumes.