For those of you unfamiliar with the “Cell Phone Popcorn” videos, a little over a week ago, someone uploaded a clip of four young people speaking French Japanese who pointed four phones at some kernels of popcorn, called them simultaneously, and caused the popcorn to pop. Here is the first video posted for those of you who haven’t seen it:

A day later a version with some people speaking English appeared:

Two users, bobtel08 and benzin513, both of whom joined YouTube on May 28th, have now posted several different videos of people popping popcorn with a cell phone, some in French, some in English.

For the past few days, people have been speculating if the videos are a fake and if cellphones can really pop corn. They’ve debated if cellphones emit enough radiation to do so, if their is a hotplate under the table etc. This is not a discussion worth continuing. The videos are clearly fake, as several bloggers have pointed out. Their is no hotpad involved, and the popcorn on the table is not actually popping. It is purely an editing and camera trick, as you can see the kernels popping on to the camera from the bottom of the screen, and the other kernels next to the “popping corn” magically don’t move and are undisturbed by kernels popping next to them. Also, the people in the videos are also definitely actors.

This is a viral marketing campaign, plain and simple. Judging by the views on the videos (over 3 million views so far) it’s a highly successful one. But the question remains, who is behind it and what are they selling? If you are selling a cell phone, would you want to give people the impression that your product emits enough energy to pop a popcorn kernel? Perhaps this is a bizarre way to advertise for a new low-radiation cell phone? Seems questionable. Of course the possibility remains that these videos are only being used to get attention, and whoever is behind them is going to drop a video promoting something totally unrelated to the original clips.

This question has been driving me crazy all morning, so I’m going to throw out a few theories of who is behind these videos. Click below to read on about a few shot-in-the-dark guesses about who could be behind this.

1. Apple: The timing oddly matches up with the announcement about the new iPhone, with the videos first being leaked online a little more than a week before the announcement of the iPhone 2. There were rumors in March that an ad had appeared on Craigslist looking for “regular people” actors for an iPhone 2 commercial. The ad was quickly pulled from Craigslist and scrubbed from the AppleInsider site. Perhaps this ad was from Apple’s ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day? Interestingly, on the Macrumors site, one individual leaves a post titled: “iPhone 2 Short Film/Ad – It’s True” in which he writes that he thinks TBWA was working with video producing firm Smuggler to create an “Apple Short”:

I work in TBWA\Chiat\Day’s mailroom and I overheard Laurie Coots talking to some guys from Smuggler about “the Apple short”. We normally only handle production through big guns like Partizan, so the fact that Smuggler was in the office got me kinda suspicious. There is definitely something in the works.

There were also reports in April, that Apple’s ad agency was seeking “Asian men who speak Mandarin; Hasidic males fluent in Hebrew; a French-speaking cab driver; a pair of Jamaican (or West Indian) women who can ‘speak with a thick patois accent’ and others.” We have seen versions of these popcorn cellphone videos in French and English, but no other languages – yet.

The use of popcorn could also be an angle in which to remind people you can watch movies on your iPhone.

Downsides of the iPhone 2 guess: First off, this isn’t really Apple’s style, they have a strong enough brand name they don’t need to generate buzz with viral campaigns. Second, I contacted Smuggler to ask if they were behind the cellphone popcorn ads – he denied they are behind these ads and I have no reason to assume he wasn’t truthful. Doesn’t mean they weren’t made by/for Apple, but if they were, it wasn’t by Smuggler – perhaps TBWA enlisted someone else to make these videos?

2. Net10: This cell phone company has already made the foray into videos of hazardous uses of cell phones, having posted a video of a cell phone being put into a microwave. A demon then climbs out of the cell phone and you are urged to visit the site The site features other videos with titles such as “Is your cell phone company supporting deadly bacteria?” and “Is your cell phone company taking advantage of homeless dogs?” It sounds like this is the kind of company willing to make a risky video like the cellphone popcorn ones….maybe a play on the “your phone is evil” theme?

So could these popcorn videos be a part of their viral video campaign? The YouTube user who posted the cell phone microwave video just added one of the cellphone popcorn videos to his profile about 5 hours ago.

On the flip side, Smuggler confirmed to me that they DID produce this video (the microwave one), so they would have had to admit to making this one but not fess up to the cellphone popcorn ones.

3. A popcorn company. It just doesn’t make sense that a cell phone company would scare people about the harmful effects of cell phones with these videos. So why not a new kind of popcorn coming out? But from who?

Is it Orville Redenbacher? Act II? Is it Pop Secret trying to promote their Pop Secret Films? Maybe it’s the popcorn board? If I was forced to guess, I’d say Dale & Thomas – they probably don’t have the budget to do TV advertising, but they could afford something like this. If we find out in the next day or two that it was Dale & Thomas, it will coincide perfectly with their attempts to push sales of their gourmet popcorn for Fathers Day this weekend.

4. Florida Orange Juice. Isn’t it kind of odd that in one of the videos they are all drinking orange juice? Who eats popcorn with orange juice? And who serves orange juice in an open top pitcher like that?

5. Beer. In one of the videos with some French guys, one of the dudes is holding what appears to be a beer.

6. A company totally unrelated to popcorn or cellphones that is going to find a way to utilize all the attention from this to put out a final video promoting something totally irrelevant to these videos.

So those are some possibilities. Lets hope one of them is right, because theoretically there are hundreds of thousands of companies that could be behind it – guessing it right with just a handful of guesses out of hundreds of thousands wouldn’t be bad.

32 Responses

  1. michelle

    I think that who ever wrote this article must work for a cell phone company, maybe even the CEO of the cell phone company?

  2. michelle

    Why don’t someone do this experiment on a glass table top, then there would be no speculation!!!!

  3. Bill Travers

    I think they are drinking momossa’s and the ad will be for a bluetooth. The English speaking version displays some bad acting, why does the guy go behind the girl after the popcorn has popped? Is he scared?

  4. Don

    I actually saw a video that shows how this was done. They took a magnetron from a microwave and stuck it the the underside of the table. After hooking the magnetron back up to the microwave using an extension, they hid the microwave & turned it on & then placed the popcorn kernals over the spot on the table where the magnetron was hidden. It wasn’t clever editing or camera trickery; the kernals actually popped, but it wasn’t the cell phones that did it. Note: in the video, the kernals were spaced far enough apart so that there was little possibilty of a popped kernal disturbing the others. Since the microwave energy was coming from the underside of the table, it heated the underside of the kernal, which when it popped would cause it to jump almost straight up. If anyone is interested, here’s a link to that video:

  5. roy

    wat? im lost. in othat it doesnt work b/c my entire scool tried it with half of the schools cellphones and the rest called them… nothing happened


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.