The story of a woman who supposedly tattooed an advertisement for the Great Barrier Reef on her arm to win a dream island job was concocted by Tourism Queensland, it has been revealed.
The fake YouTube video is just another example of Australian advertising agencies' "crude" use of social media to promote brands, a marketing expert says.
In its latest campaign, Tourism Queensland invited people to send in a 60-second video of themselves to apply for a $150,000 caretaker job for Hamilton Island, which it dubbed "the best job in the world".
Local and international media outlets last week reported thousands of applicants had already sent in videos, including an Australian woman called "Tegan" who supposedly showed herself visiting a tattoo parlour to get a 10-centimetre tattoo proving her love for the Great Barrier Reef.
But Tourism Queensland has since admitted "Tegan" was not a genuine applicant, but a member of the ad agency that created the campaign promoting the Great Barrier Reef islands.
It said the "fake" video, one of the first posted, was only intended as a example of the creativity Tourism Queensland expected from applicants, and to spur people to post their own videos.
But there was nothing on the video or the campaign website to say the video was an example.
Marketing expert Tim Burrowes said the video was an example of Australian ad agencies starting to use social media - such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook - to promote their brands.
"Social media is a conversation between consumers and they are trying to insert their brand into that conversation," Mr Burrowes said.
"You're just seeing the beginnings now of Australian agencies doing it, but they are not terribly sophisticated so far."
Mr Burrowes - who was first to expose the fake Tourism Queensland video on his blog, Mumbrella - said Australian local examples so far were "a bit lame and obviously faked up".
Many YouTube users sensed the Tourism Queensland tattoo video was a fake, some pointing out that the applicant's skin was not red, as it should be, after getting a tattoo.
Mr Burrowes also took aim at the weekend's story about a 24-year-old woman, Heidi Clarke, who has reportedly posted a video on YouTube to track down a mystery man whose jacket she found at a Sydney cafe.
Ms Clarke said she posted the clip because she was smitten with the man and wanted to meet him.
"I'm convinced that's a fake, just the way she talks about the jacket [and] how good the lining is ... it's almost becoming a cliche for advertising agencies to do this now."
A newspaper said the label inside the jacket belonged to a well-known clothing store that was about to launch the clothing line.
"I really think this [devious approach] will bite a lot of brands on the back side," Mr Burrowes said.
"Consumers are very cynical and the trust in these brands will fall away.
"The danger now is every time there's something interesting on some social media website people wont trust it - a lot of brands have been quite short sighted."
Tourism Queensland believes its tactic has worked, with the caretaker job having attracted 5800 applications by yesterday afternoon, and 6000 expected to have been received by the end of today.
More than 10,000 were expected to apply by the February 22 cut-off date.
Mr Burrowes acknowledged the wide coverage the video received helped the campaign, but said much of this also owed to the campaign's original "brilliant PR idea" of the working holiday.
One of the best examples of a company using social media to promote its products was that of Blendtec, a US company that makes blenders, which has a series of YouTube videos in which company founder Tom Dickson attempts to blend a range of items.
The "Will it blend" series shows Mr Dickson blending avocados, shoes, golf balls, and even an iPhone.
"I think the secret with social media is you want to go viral, and to that you have to be entertaining and then your brand gets a nudge right on the corner of the story," Mr Burrowes said.