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Prankvertising: Worth It?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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It is becoming ever more difficult to stand out to consumers. Brands are fighting tooth and nail to "rise above the clutter" and not only be noticed, but be remembered. As brands search for best practices and the top five ways to win attention, other brands are going the more "fiendish" route.


Prankvertising, or advertising through pranking innocent consumers, is becoming a popular tool in the marketer's toolbox. It is attention grabbing, and extremely viral. 

In class a student showed us the Carrie 2013 movie's attempt of prankvertising; it set up at a coffee shop and showcased a girl flipping out over spilled coffee.

Ad is below:

We love the biker who ran out of the shop...without his bike. Can't say we wouldn't have done the same. If we saw a girl throwing a guy up against a wall without using hands, that is all we would have needed to see to get running the other direction as fast as possible.

Was the video attention grabbing? It's been about three weeks, and the video is so far at 46 million views — we put that in the "yes" category.

But will it be effective? That remains to be seen.

The prank got half of its strategy right so far — people are talking about how crazy the Carrie movie is going to be. Granted, Carrie remakes have traditionally gathered people, so it will be interesting to know how the movie will calculate success. Will it be first-weekend ticket sales? Two-month sales revenue? Social media chatter about the movie? Can 46 million views translate to 46 million tickets?

Wouldn't that be nice.

It is too early to tell, but this is quite the high profile event for prankvertising, and to see how it fits within the overall marketing effectiveness will be a great case study.

Because as of right now, the jury is out on prankvertising. It seems that the marketing industry has a whole sees the uniqueness of it, but very few would venture out and place their necks on the line advocating for it. We'd recommend you read this piece about prankvertising over at The Guardian. It highlights other companies, like LG and Nivea, that have used prankvertising, with mixed reviews.

Naturally, the new kid on the block gets hated on until everyone tries it; then it will be the "next hottest thing" until we all get tired of it and we're all back here wondering what to do to rise out that stupid clutter again.

But, until then.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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