Prankvertising: The New PR Stunt Currency

February 13, 2014 - 9 minutes read

Wow, what a year it’s been. We’ve seen giant dragon skulls wash up on shore, a huge Mr Darcy rise from the depths of Hyde Park lake and Alan Partridge’s Face in 500m of light rope performing Roachford’s Cuddly Toy.



January came to an end where quite a lot of us would have completed our ‘dry athlon’…. For some it has gone better than others. Blue Monday has passed and we can’t believe it’s been a year already since our ebookers guerrilla campaign where we sent bikini and surf short clad guys and girls on the tube with surfboards and other holiday items. Last year was really PR Stunt mad! So in the aftermath of the new year’s resolutions, (how long were you able to stick to yours) we look back over the year at the what seems to be the new trend, prankvertising!


If you haven’t heard already, “prankvertising” (a mix of ‘prank’ and ‘advertising’) is where an unsuspecting member(s) of the public are subjected to a prank pr stunt usually taking the form of scarring the hell out of them to somehow communicate the brands message and  it’s taking viral advertising campaigns by storm. Brands are finding it increasingly challenging to communicate their message through traditional media channels and stand out from the crowd in this ever changing market. What better way to gain media coverage then filming your very own ‘car crash’ video PR stunt where people can’t help but watch the drama unfold and the target of the prank’s reactions escalating until they’re told it’s all in the name of advertising.



The Carrie reboot could have easily passed us all by as another film remake, however Carrie’s viral marketing campaign made sure that didn’t happen. Unsuspecting customers getting their morning coffee were stunned when an altercation between 2 other customers turned into something positively supernatural, as a young woman appeared to have telekinesis powers by throwing a man up a wall, scattering the surrounding coffee tables and sending books flying.



We think this campaign was such a huge hit because of the seamlessness of the stunt itself. Customers could have easily dismissed the man flying up the wall as being attached to a chord, however when the coffee table spread and books flying in a seemingly random fashion the stunt becomes all that more haunting and believable.




We gather they must have somehow inadvertently agreed to something or been made aware before entering the coffee shop incase someone had a heart condition. It’s the people’s genuine reaction that makes this type of viral video captivating. We also like the little but effective touch of making the camera shake when the supernatural happenings occurred, which is purely for the end audience but conveys the potential shock of scared onlookers.






We’ve all been there: the job interview. You’ve researched the company and rehearsed potential questions, carefully picked your outfit and made sure you arrive on time for the interview. You’re greeted and the interview starts everything seems to be going well. Your answers seem to please the interviewer and you feel more and more confident by the second… until …out of the window you notice a meteorite size of a football stadium burning up in the atmosphere and the hurtling towards the cityscape.



Nothing seems possible to stop it at the speed it is travelling and it crashes to the ground destroying everything in its path, the room is shaking  and the impact is spreading towards the building where you’re in. Is this the end of the world?! Is this the worst interview every?!  This what LGs viral marketing campaign in Chile put interviewees through to promote their new ultra HDTV to demonstrate the hyper real quality of the sounds and picture. When revealed at the end it was all a prank and the window was on fact a TV some of the interviewees don’t find it quite as funny as others understandably. All in all a great prank to play to get a true reaction to a hyper realistic TV, although we don’t think it quite has the technology to shake the room).



Nivea Stress Test


Being at the airport is stressful enough and with the added armed police presence you would be forgiven for feeling a little paranoid. However, these people were really put to the test when their friends set them up to be part of Niveas ‘stress test’ to promote their new stress protect deodorant. After luring them to the airport and waiting in departures the unsuspecting “prank-ee’s” face appears on a newspaper being read by a person opposite with “suspect on the run” much to their horror.



As the scenario unfolds an airport announcement describes the person stating them as   ‘wanted’, and breaking news bulletin declaring that the police are looking for this person who is ‘extremely dangerous and unpredictable’ showing their picture.



The episode culminates in 2 security guards asking is the person is stressed and revealing the prank, much to their relief. Again, another viral stinger where we can’t wait to see people’s reactions to a scary situation. As the people commented they couldn’t understand how quickly they got their picture printed on a news paper bu the making of video demonstrates.





Elevator murder


A German marketing firm  took the ‘prankversting’ to a new level by staging a fake murder in an elevator and filming people’s reactions as the elevator doors opened. Some were brave and fought the ‘murderer’, but others ran off and some just starred in disbelief. This was to promote the crime thriller Dead Man Down





On a slightly more serious note, Leo Burnett took prankvertising and used it communicate a serious message about anti drink driving for THINK!

Men washing their hands in a pub toilet and looking into a mirror are scarred witless when a mannequin smashes through it to the sounds of a crashing car with blood dripping down the smashed mirror.





It’s even got to the stage now where there are parodies of the campaigns and their features cleverly titled “exFEARiential”




We can’t wait to see what 2014 holds for ‘prankstervising. We’ve already seen ‘Devil Baby’ where the sound of a crying baby can be heard from an apparently abandoned pram on a street. When unsuspecting helpers peer in a very creepy ‘devil baby’ pops up much to their surprise.




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