No, Doctor Fork is not a real pizza company. Or a real cheesecake company.

By Mike Pomranz
August 21, 2018
Smith Collection/Gado/Radionphoto/Getty Images

The impact of “fake news” on social media has been a hot topic recently; meanwhile, Google and YouTube have been dabbling in a slightly different kind of endeavor: fake advertisements. In fact, Google created a whole fake food brand and ran over 33 fake commercials on YouTube, racking up 20 million impressions—all as an experiment to learn more about how advertisements work.

If you’ve found yourself craving food from “Doctor Fork” after watching YouTube, bad news: the brand doesn’t exist. Instead the fake ads—some for pizza, some for cheesecake (which actually sounds like a great idea for a restaurant)—were created by Google’s Unskippable Labs, along with Nestle and BYU professor Ryan Elder, to determine the effect of sensory cues and human presence on ad effectiveness.

Speaking with TechCrunch, Ben Jones, the creative director for Unskippable Labs, gave an example of the old rule that a commercial should never show someone chewing food and looking at the camera. “Maybe I can’t look directly at the camera, but Doctor Fork can do whatever he wants,” Jones explained. “Let’s use the freedom of the unbranded ad to be wrong, to push in directions and ask questions that a brand will not, because a brand has a complex brief and very focused set of objectives.”

Indeed if you dig through the 15 Doctor Fork cheesecake ads, you’ll find one with some dude looking right into the camera while chewing. He’s apparently tried to woo a lot of people: The video has over 167,000 views.

The experiments are also pretty clear when you dig through the 18 Doctor Food pizza ads. For instance, you’ll find slight variations on the exact same ad—like trying it with and without sound.

In the end, the experiment reportedly landed on six major takeaways, though most of them won’t really mean a lot to those outside of the advertising world. The resulting suggestions were things like use more super close shots of food and don’t feel the need to always show biting and smiling to indicate food is being enjoyed.

However, what consumers might care about is that Jones said his team plans to do similar experiments moving forward. Clearly, the Doctor Fork cat is now out of the bag, so you have to assume Google will try another fake brand next time around. The moral: Question everything… even your pizza commercials.

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