The outing of Lonelygirl15, the online creation whose confessional video diaries captivated hundreds of thousands of YouTube fans, has forced her audience to consider: Was Lonelygirl a simple hoax or high-concept art?

A similar question can be asked of advertising campaigns that employ Lonelygirl-style deception. A typical teaser campaign plants a cryptic message in its ads, or implores consumers to visit a mysterious Web site, or links a string of clues meant to tantalize consumers with the implicit promise of a pending denouement.

Some campaigns, like the Burger King-sponsored Subservient Chicken Web site that became a viral sensation in 2004, consist of a video that appears homemade but is actually the work of an ad agency on behalf of its client.

The unmasking of Lonelygirl, who turned out to be an actress in a film project, may cast a cloud over teaser campaigns that blur the lines between truth and fiction.

Advertisers who want to generate interest in a product with a mysterious teaser campaign may tread lightly around consumers who feel increasingly duped by fake videos and covert viral marketing efforts, said Andy Sernovitz, the chief executive of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, a trade group in Chicago.

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