Who doesn’t love a good prank – especially with April Fool’s Day imminent…
Incorporating humor and even trickery into mainstream marketing and public relations is a longstanding practice that can be both smart and entertaining. However, a new wave of “prankvertising” (a real word) goes way beyond updated versions of Candid Camera stunts or extreme episodes from reality show take-offs inspired by Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d from MTV.
Prankvertising employs elaborate pranks and stunts that target unsuspecting “victims.” They are filmed with the intent of creating a video that will go viral on the Internet and produce massive visibility for a company, product or cause (translation – “sales”) for a much lower budget than traditional advertising. Two companies that have captured huge video hits are LG and Heineken. An arguably creepy viral video to push the Carrie remake (right) may have attracted more viewers than the movie itself.
Universally, we know that sex sells: Witness the much-publicized First Kiss video, with 65 million views and counting. This supposedly poignant and artsy video of total strangers’ first kisses was a bit disingenuous; it was actually sponsored by the clothing brand, Wren, and featured professional actors, models and musicians.
And talk about over the top: In an attempt to make clean toilets sexy, Flush to Paradise was launched this month by worldwide detergent manufacturer Henkel. Random women entering a public bathroom were instructed to “flush the toilet” and are magically transported to a tropical paradise where the stunt is a seductive serenade by four sultry hunks from The Balls Dream Band, to showcase dazzling toilets.
If that’s not enough, you can get the app and upload your own photo to join the Balls Dream Band in paradise plus share photos with funny messages from band members using Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or email. Brilliant or bogus? The proof will be in the soap sales…
Moreover, prankvertising feeds on fear. The Walking Dead NYC video has hungry zombies infesting and grabbing people through a sidewalk grate. Entertaining or a violation of public safety?
A recent inciteful article in Ad Week points out how pranks can go awry, quickly: When someone gets hurt, ends up in the hospital or the cops are called — that’s when the pranks stop… Whether someone gets sued, arrested, or emotionally scarred, the end result is that the company running the prankvertisement stands to lose a lot more than just a court case. These tactics definitely walk a fine line, and companies appear to be upping the stakes with every new prankvertisement. If something goes wrong, not only will their bottom line be hit hard, but they could also face nasty public backlash — further affecting their revenues and image for years.
So, prankvertising aside, what’s up your sleeve for April Fool’s Day? For some laughs and mischievous inspiration, visit museumofhoaxes.com for the top 100 April Fool’s hoaxes of all time, based on notoriety, creativity and number of people duped. A few classics:
Journalist Gem: My all time fave: Everyone knows that pigs can’t fly but what about penguins?
The acclaimed BBC captured footage of Adélie penguins in Antarctica, which became one of the most viewed videos on the Internet. “Instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins fly thousands of miles to South American rainforests to winter in the tropical sun.” A follow-up video explained the special effects.
Virgin Visionary: UFO Lands in London
Thousands of motorists outside London looked up to see a glowing flying saucer descending on their city in 1989 and watched it land. Calls to the police warned of an alien invasion. A door in the craft popped open, and a small, silver-suited figure emerged. The saucer was a hot-air balloon built to look like a UFO, the work of Richard Branson, then 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records, who had combined his passion for ballooning with his love of pranks.
Corporate Caper: The Left-Handed Whopper
Folks are still talking about Burger King’s full page ad in USA Today announcing the new “Left-Handed Whopper,” specially designed for America’s 32 million left-handers. The new Whopper included the same ingredients as the original but with all condiments rotated 180 degrees for left-handed customers – for less spillage. Burger King’s follow-up release revealed that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had requested it while many others requested their traditional ‘right handed’ version.
P.S. Please share your best April Fool’s story to add to our blog – either as the “duper” or the “dupee.” The most original will win a new 60” flat screen TV in time for the NCAA championship game on Sun., April 6…