Was the Porn-Shoot Shark Attack a Publicity Stunt? ‘It’s Fishy’

We talked to a branding expert who also happens to be familiar with shark bites

Last Updated: May 5, 2017 @ 5:42 PM

It’s almost too perfect a metaphor for porn: a pretty young woman is lowered into a ring of sharks, confident they won’t hurt her. She emerges surprised, wounded and screaming. And it’s exactly what ostensibly happened to web-cam model Molly Cavalli in a video that went viral Friday.

In keeping with the voyeuristic, hyper-entrepreneurial nature of the business, porn company CamSoda shared the footage of Cavalli far and wide — and used it to promote its new web-cam technology. Cavalli’s swimsuit brandished the company’s logo across her chest.

Is it all too convenient for CamSoda?

“It’s fishy, no pun intended,” said branding expert Michael Bilello — who also happens to be a diver, fisherman and Iraq combat veteran. “I call bulls— on the video as a certified diver and former Marine officer.”

The CEO and practitioner of Tampa’s Centurion Strategies, who has seen shark bites on fish, noted that Cavalli only seemed to have a single, painful-looking slash — not the “crescent-moon, multiple-teeth” wounds typical of shark bites.

“Regardless, it’s a very effective publicity stunt,” he said. “Attractive girl, white bikini, shark cage … Certainly I think we can all agree that this was a publicity stunt and it’s working well. For those of us who didn’t know what CamSoda was, we are now aware. For those who weren’t aware of the model, now we are.”

He joined a few YouTube commenters who found it odd that CamSoda showed every aspect of Cavalli’s dip and escape except for the attack itself, even though the company shot her and the sharks from multiple angles.

Of course, it’s possible that CamSoda was too sensitive to show violence — despite having just lowered a caged, barely-dressed woman into a sea of orbiting sharks.

Another branding expert, Chad J. Kawalec, CEO and founder of the Brand Identity Center, said that if Cavalli had really been bit, the company probably wouldn’t have shared any footage.

“I think its a publicity stunt — it was filmed and posted by CamSoda,” Kawalec told TheWrap. “If it was real, they’d be worried about her suing and wouldn’t want that evidence out there.”

Cavalli certainly doesn’t sound like someone who is suing. And the company that put her in the cage was … well, cagey.

When TheWrap asked CamSoda directly in an email if the shark attack was fake, the company responded with two statements — neither of which directly addressed the question.

The first statement was from Cavalli.

“I want to thank my fans for their outpouring of support as I heal my foot following the shark bite. Luckily it only required 20 stitches. I’m fine. It’s not that bad,” she said. “I had a great experience anyway and now I have a story to tell forever.”

The company pivoted from there to a statement by vice president Darren Press, which highlighted the company’s new “mobile hardware solution” before expressing the company’s concern for its bloodied model.

“Here at CamSoda we have been diligently working on the development of a mobile hardware solution that will allow our models to broadcast live from anywhere in the world – land, sea or air. After a tedious developmental process, we wanted to test it out with an underwater broadcast,” the statement begins.

It goes on to explain that the company thought lemon sharks were “predominantly docile and relatively harmless.”

The statement expresses gratitude for the doctors and staff who helped Cavalli, and ends with another pitch for the company’s technology: “We owe it to our fans to continue to forge ahead and make this readily available to the masses.”

Kawalec’s conclusion?

“The stunt worked. They found a way to greatly extend awareness of their name by ensuring it is embedded exactly where it would best showcase what they are selling,” he said. “Since she was not really hurt, it underscores the darker, forbidden side of porn. I doubt anyone noticed her bleeding foot.”

Tim Kenneally and Itay Hod contributed to this story.

Watch the video above.