Prankvertising: Are the Pranks Worth It?

You may have seen the recent trend in advertising where businesses set up hair-raising, seemingly real-life scenarios on a group of random observers or customers as a prank, and film their reactions as part of a marketing campaign. This new trend, cleverly named prankvertising, has been gaining major attention for some big brands. Not only does prankvertising help gain an audience around their brand, but also has increased sales for companies such as LG, Toys R Us, TNT, etc. A recent example of prankvertising would be the Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise ad for the latest re-make of the famous movie, Carrie.

For this prank, a local coffee shop in New York was made telekinetic by adding magnetic and mechanical mechanisms to the tables, books and pictures of the café décor. Actors portrayed a real-life scenario where a man, trying to sit down, accidentally drops his coffee all over the laptop and belongings of an unsuspecting young lady (also an actress in the prank). As the actor drops his coffee on the girls laptop, she screams aloud and gets angry at the man. Standing some feet away from the man, the actress holds out her hand, which then knocks the man against the wall and drops him on the floor without her touching anything. At this point, real customers of the coffee shop are surprised and shocked to see the young lady move the tables from the coffee shop around as she discovers her telekinetic powers inside the coffee shop. Some try to evacuate the coffee shop and get away from the upset girl. The actress in the prank, gives one more yell of anguish and this sets off all the photographs from the wall and books to fly off the shelf in the café.

Pretty convincing, but do these marketing tactics work? Is the potential risk worth the buzz? Lets take a closer look at what goes into prankvertising.

Old Tactic with New Results

Its easy to see how this type of advertising can cause a stir. Prankvertising can easily draw an audience, as the whole ad depends on the element of surprise and a shocking reveal to a public audience. These ads also tend to blur the lines between reality and a fictional advertisement, which makes the ad more interactive for users. Even though they aren’t actually there for the prank, online users can still partake in seeing the real-life reactions or take part of the surprise reveal. This participation by users incites sharing on social media and allows these suspenseful videos to go viral. This is the main reason why the demand is rising for prankvertising, since they are a more cost-effective approach than spending big dollars on a comprehensive marketing campaign.

Every marketing campaign or general advertisement strives to be creative and captivate the customer to purchase the product, but prankvertising goes beyond the creative nature of a normal advertisement and turns it on its heel. The prankvertisment attempts to create a seemingly real, shocking scenario and gets the audience involved. Its about earning an audience, rather than buying an audience; rethinking the general concept behind ads. This gives an air of authenticity towards the commercial, since there is an aspect of realness within the video.

Worth All the Risk?

Although the surprise factor is what prankvertising is all about, the companies involved in these ads are putting real people in scary and potentially risky situations, all for promotional value. This is where things get tricky in prankvertising. If driven too far, these prankvertisements could bring lawsuits to the companies and agencies involved. Thinkmodo, the marketing agency responsible for the recent prankvertisement for the DVD release of The Last Exorcism Part II, asserts that they go to very detailed measures to ensure that the participants in the ad and their clients are not put in any real danger that could possibly lead to liability issues or leave any long-term trauma. The prank took place in a beauty parlor where the agency rigged one of the mirrors to display the dead girl featured in the film. While it is difficult to actually measure how profitable this ad was, this hair-raising stunt did go viral on Youtube and helped bring major sales at the Box Office for the movie. Lets take closer look at the return on investment for this prank ad. According to Businessweek, the average video has a $750,000 budget; this Beauty Parlor video obtained 53 million views on Youtube, which turns out to be a $0.01 cost per view. As opposed to a regular commercial, where a normal cost per view ranges from $0.10 to $0.50, making the Beauty Parlor prank ad the more effective campaign.

But what about more extreme prankvertisements, like LGs Dooms Day?  In this ad an office window was replaced by an LG high-definition TV, to give the impression of a normal window. Then actual job applicants were brought in and an actor conducted an interview. As they begin the interview, the TV/ window displays a great explosion, the room begins to shake, and all the lights turn off in the office, as if the world has ended. After some time, the scared job applicant is left in the dark office to capture their completely terrified reaction as they believed the huge explosion on the screen.

At the end of the ad, the lights turn on and they explain to the job applicants that it was a LG Ultra HD TV screen that displayed the seemingly real explosion. This scenario could potentially inflict unintended stress upon the person. Not only is there potential risk for legal action, but should companies assume a moral obligation to their consumers? Knowing that there is a risk of undue stress, should companies realize that the risk is too great for their campaign and their customers?

Prank On! But Be Creative

Despite the huge amount of risk involved in prankvertising, there is an even bigger demand from viewers for new prankvertisements. These ads work because they grab users attention and provide an opportunity for users to interact directly. Plus, with Youtube, and social media sharing, prank ads have the potential to go viral, which is something that every company strives for.

Yet, as more and more businesses begin to adapt to prankvertising, the need to be constantly creative and edgy is becoming a greater concern. In order to reach the full potential of the ad and have the big, lasting impression that these prankvertisements can render, the company must effectively blur the lines of reality and uniquely place their promotion within the ad. With this in mind, prank ads could get even crazier in the near future.

Seen any other interesting prank ads? Tell us what you think and share the prankvertisment below.


Want to update your marketing campaigns? Contact Space Chimp for a free quote today.

Recent Posts