Jumio and the “Anti-Cash League”: Adventures in Viral Video

3/18/11Follow @wroush

“It’s dirty, covered in microbacteria and traces of cocaine … [it] fuels criminal activity … it may be green in color, but it certainly is not good for the environment.” What is this nefarious threat? It’s cash money, at least according to Sebastian Cole of the Anti-Cash League. Cole is the British expert featured in a video released this week by Jumio, a stealth-mode startup in San Francisco that’s working on new payment technologies.

Xconomy, a bit taken aback at the depths of the biohazard lurking in our wallets, contacted Cole by phone today for more information. “I don’t normally do telephone interviews, because of how incredibly dirty [telephones] are, but this is an issue I feel strongly about,” Cole said. He went on to claim that paper bills are only 50 percent linen and cotton fiber; the rest is “pocket lint, calcified dendrium, and dirt.”

“We’ve been going for about seven years now at the Anti-Cash League, and it’s our goal to stop the production of all paper and metal currency by 2020,” Cole said. “That’s an ambitious goal, but that’s what leagues are for, really.”

There’s just one little thing about Sebastian Cole: he isn’t British. In fact, he doesn’t exist—and neither does the Anti-Cash League. The video is a mockumentary produced for Jumio by San Francisco public relations firm LaunchSquad to help build buzz in advance of the company’s formal launch. And it may be working: the video has been viewed more than 13,000 times since it went public on Wednesday.

Jumio hasn’t said much about its actual post-cash technology yet, but it did get a blast of media attention this week when it revealed that Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder of Facebook, led a $6.5 million Series A investment in the company. The story was picked up by the Huffington Post and many other outlets, which led Web readers back to the video.

Jumio The End of Cash from Jumio Inc. on Vimeo.

You probably remember Saverin—he’s the guy played by Andrew Garfield in the Oscar-nominated movie The Social Network. Well, the other actor involved in the Jumio story is Nick Markham, a member of LaunchSquad’s video team, who also happens to act. He played Sebastian Cole in the video. I talked with Markham today—he gamely agreed to go into character to supply the quotes above—and he says the project allowed him to indulge one of his hobbies, developing fictional characters. “Usually I’m behind the camera, but every now and then it’s great to have an opportunity like this to start having fun with one of these personas,” Markham says. “It’s great working with a company like Jumio—they let us take it to an extreme.”

The video is cleverly made. It’s got classic shock-value images redolent of TV political ads, together with images and voice-over from an erudite Cole, lecturing on the evils of paper cash and the virtues of paying for even small items like a cup of coffee with credit cards or other electronic means.

But “to be clear, there is no real ‘Anti-Cash League’ or ‘Sebastian Cole,’” says Bettina Winters, vice president of marketing at Jumio. “We made this video to be provocative, viral and interesting, while also shining a very real light on the fact that we see cash as … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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