The businessman behind the hoax viral video of a pregnant French tourist has defended the marketing stunt, saying the economic benefits to the area will "far outstrip" any negative feelings generated by the fake story.
Nigel Lucas, owner of a Mooloolaba holiday company, said the idea for Natalie Amyot -- a fictional French tourist who caught the world's attention as she tried to find her baby daddy after a one-night stand -- was formulated several weeks ago after a conversation with a friend who runs a social media company.
"When people talk about the Sunshine Coast, they talk about Noosa. Mooloolaba never hits the map. He went away, then came back and said he had an idea," Lucas told The Huffington Post Australia.
"He said it was going to upset a few people. I asked if it will achieve our goals, and he said yes."
Lucas said the pair had actively courted online outrage, with the social media manager telling him that "controversy sells".
"We got him to put this thing together. I said 'let's do the great cafes and beaches,' all the accommodation on the Sunshine Coast, and he said nobody would watch it," Lucas said.
Online reaction to the initial video, then the follow-up clip revealing the trick, has been fierce. The original video has garnered over 1.2 million views on Youtube, but the reveal was met with almost exclusively negative feedback.
"How exactly do you think this will generate any new business for you? I'm familiar with there's no such thing as bad publicity but why would anyone think 'gee they had me pretty good, I'll definitely go to them from now on'," one commenter wrote.
"Mooloolaba is a beautiful place, but why advertise in such a negative way? You've more than likely turned people away now," wrote another.
"What a disgusting marketing strategy. It is really appalling that you are marketing this place as a place were you can come and get laid. I have never been there but I am sure it is beautiful like most other parts of Australia but this marketing strategy is a complete fail. And what about all those people who you cheated in making believe that the girl needed help," raged another.
Lucas seemed unconcerned by the unhappy reactions, with dozens of people upset at the idea of using a single mother as a marketing ploy.
"The benefits of how it will benefit the cafe owners and hoteliers will far outstrip any negatives the campaign will generate," he said.
"I understand, I do feel for them [people feeling upset]. But if it pushes forward [local businesses'] cause, then great."
Lucas claimed the campaign was to have held out on revealing the hoax until midday on Thursday, but that online and media scrutiny of the video forced the strategy to be updated.
"This thing got so big, then Facebook realised that's not her real name, and they started to take down Facebook pages, so we decided to bring it to an end. We planned it to be five days in total," he said.
"Our concern is [the actress in the video] won't get any negative backlash from this. She's not pregnant, she has a steady boyfriend."
Lucas hoped the tourism benefits would justify the online storm.
"If we get a small percentage of the people who viewed the video, even 1 percent, then we're getting there," he said.