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Prankvertising Prankvertising, thé new trend in advertising

“You’ve got punk’d” probably is the tagline of Ashton Kutcher, elected several times as the sexiest man on earth (just so you know ;-)).  But that’s not exactly what we are going to talk about today. Well, maybe a little. The trend of celebrities ‘punking’ each other has now moved to a whole new level, as it has now made its way into marketing. Say hello to the new trend in advertising. Say hello to prankvertising.


Famous talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen Degeneres have been taking advantage of this prank-appeal for some time, encouraging their audiences to prank their loved ones or some strangers and videotape it. Think about Jimmy Kimmel’s  “I told my kids I ate all their Halloween candy” prank and the famous “Dance dares” from The Ellen Show. We all know the main purpose of this sort of pranks is just pranking for fun and entertainment.

But it’s only when these stunts involve –to varying degrees- average people, who often have no idea that they’re taking part in the making of a commercial or a video designed to go viral, you can speak of prankvertising. And it works, as it has arguably been thé viral genre of 2013 with an abundance of brands getting involved on a host of levels in their video marketing. Such marketing stunts are nothing new though, but lately brands seem to be taking this tactic to a new, extreme level. NIVEA’s stress test for example, where airport passengers get tricked into thinking they had inadvertently become wanted terrorists. All of this with the purpose of promoting the new NIVEA Stress Protect deodorant. Another of my favorites is the Carlsberg Poker game commercial, where a group of best friends are being put to the test when one of them calls late at night begging for money. And only a couple of weeks ago, the marketing video for the announcement of the new ‘Carrie’ movie went viral around the world. I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now as well :).


We just love a good old prank

whIf we only take a look at the reach of the campaigns mentioned above – and we can talk about  millions of views – we immediately see the answer as to why prankvertising works. Lately, it has been extremely difficult for brands to advertise effectively via traditional channels, especially towards Millennials. It has become more and more difficult to get the attention of this generation. Not only because they are the most marketing savvy and advertising-critical generation ever, but also because they have already seen it all. They want more. On top of that, it turns out that Millennials have a real love for a good old-fashioned prank. Whether it is a funny or a scary one, they love it. So using a good prank in your advertising strategy seems to be the perfect combination to attracting their attention. And once you have succeeded in getting the attention of this critical and social generation, you’re good to go :). And then the word of mouth buzz can start…

Why it works… or not?

I think we can all agree that prankvertising works. But that does not mean you don’t have to stick to some rules. First of all, brands have to stay true to their trademark and true to what consumers know about them in order to be effective. They have to stay authentic by creating real experiences that engage their audiences and stay true to what they stand for.

Secondly, it only works if the overall emotion of the participants and the viewers is a positive one. They can entertain and even surprise, but they must also delight. When you watched the NIVEA and Carlsberg movies I’m sure – in the end – you felt the delight as well.

However, I can hear you thinking: “I did not feel any delight watching the Carrie movie”. Well, indeed, in some cases you have supporters and opponents. Especially with shocking campaigns like this one, you’ll definitely have some controversy. But still, that doesn’t stop people from clicking, sharing and commenting.

So, some like it, others don’t. I know I do, but what are your thoughts on prankvertising and the thin line between delighting and shocking viewers?

Posted in Trends