Since 2017, an imposing military-style vehicle with a giant rolling ball on its front has been featured in online advertisements and YouTube thumbnails. An advertisement created by the website Yeah Motor, which was hosted by the advertising platform Taboola, showed the image of the vehicle with the words: “The Military Spent $1 Billion on This New Vehicle, And Here’s The First Look.”
Readers who clicked the advertisement were led to a 52-page slideshow on Yeah Motor, where the image of the ball vehicle did not appear. This method of drawing in readers with clickbait to a slideshow with multiple pages is known as advertising arbitrage. With arbitrage, the goal is to make more money on the ads displayed during the slideshow than it costs to place the ads that drive readers to the story in the first place.
The MAD LAB YouTube channel also featured the image in a thumbnail for the video, “Best Off-Road Vehicles of All Time.”
However, the vehicle doesn’t show up in the 12-minute video. The MAD LAB YouTube channel turned off the ability to like or dislike the video — where viewers can click a thumbs-up or thumbs-down icon — which is unique to this video in particular. The feature was perhaps disabled because of the large number of dislikes the video was receiving for failing to deliver on the promise in the thumbnail. Other videos on the channel allowed the liking and disliking of videos.
The image is also featured on several other YouTube videos:
The military did not spend $1 billion on this “new vehicle” because it’s not real. Concept artist Camille Kuo created the impressive artwork, although her signature appeared to be removed via Photoshop. The original “track ball” artwork with the signature is available on her ArtStation page:
Kuo, who is from Taipei, Taiwan, told us that her artwork is available on image-licensing websites, which allows anyone who can pay the licensing fee the ability to use the artwork for commercial purposes.
“That’s why you see they are being used commercially without giving me credit,” Kuo said. However, it’s unclear if all of the advertisers and YouTube users that featured her artwork in thumbnails properly obtained licenses.
For this piece, “track ball,” I emphasized the importance of being a tank without having traditional tank wheels. It can massively mash whatever comes through at the bottom, making pancakes. All of the work is done in Photoshop using the industry of concept art techniques called Photobash and 3DKitbash.
She told us that it took around two to three hours to create, although “the process of concepting the design takes the longest.” Kuo’s other work can be viewed on her ArtStation page.