Earlier today, the Observer reported on a new app called Chute, which would purportedly prevent your phone from shattering when dropped from heights of up to 10 feet.
It turns out that Chute is not real. Boogie, an NYC marketing and social media agency, put the story out there with the intention of “pulling a lighthearted prank on the public,” according to Dahcia Lyons, the company’s vice president of social strategy.
The Observer regrets our error. We admit we should have spotted a few red flags, like Chute’s limited Twitter following, and the fact that Chute’s “founder” sounded oddly monotone when we interviewed him over the phone.
But we must note that unlike several recent media stunts, our story on Chute was not the product of overly credulous re-blogging. Boogie constructed an entire landing page and imaginary founder of the app, replete with screenshots and mock-ups of the product. The Observer interviewed the fictitious founder, played by Boogie’s in-house product manager, but he lied over the phone, and in his answers to follow-up questions via email.
The lies extended to Chute’s Twitter page, where the fake company outright denied allegations it was a hoax:
Ms. Lyons, from Boogie, contacted the Observer this afternoon to explain that Chute was a prank. Though we acknowledge we fell for their trick, we should also point out that Boogie seems to have little control over or understanding of the stunt it’s trying to pull. Ms. Lyons sounded flustered and regretful—apologizing profusely around 15 times—and continuously backtracked throughout the entirety of our conversation.
“We didn’t necessarily choose the New York Observer to be the brunt of the prank,” she said. “We wanted to prank the Internet, so we wanted to team up with publications like the New York Observer to prank the general public.”
To be clear, we explained that the New York Observer is a serious news organization that never collaborates or “teams up” with brands, especially not to “prank” the public. She also tried to convince us that Boogie’s stunt was kinder than the Ship Your Enemies Glitter stunt.
“I think [ours is] completely different because that was outright trying to deceive reporters,” she said. “We were trying to work with reporters to get our prank out there. That was obviously a little more malicious.”
We pointed out that “teaming up with publications” generally doesn’t entail blatantly lying throughout multiple interviews. Didn’t she think that constituted deception?
“No,” Ms. Lyons answered, but followed up with more apologies.
She proceeded to ask if the Observer would like to work with Boogie on revealing their big prank tomorrow—an offer that we declined. More apologies followed.
We told Ms. Lyons we’d be publishing a follow-up story detailing the convoluted conversation we’d just had.
“We just ask that you keep it factual,” she said.
Update: The technological procedure behind the fake app Chute is nearly identical to a process patented by Apple. When we asked Boogie about the patent, the firm went from refusing to comment to changing their story.