Advertising’s Newest Trend – Just in time for Halloween

15 Oct Advertising’s Newest Trend – Just in time for Halloween

As you sit unsuspectingly drinking your latte and reading the paper at your local coffee shop, a woman nearby begins levitating and destroying items with her eyes alone. You must be watching a horror movie, right?

While this might sound like something you would never see outside of the silver screen, it actually is part of the latest trend in advertising – prankvertising. As you watch the freak out of the coffee shop woman take place, you are being secretly taped for your reaction – which is likely to be extreme given the situation that is unfolding.

Prankvertising is the latest trend amongst advertisers and companies have been scrambling to out-do each other with elaborate scenarios designed to shock the viewers and go viral. The latest attempt at the tactic was sponsored by Sony to promote the movie Carrie, where an actress at a coffee shop simulated a Carrie-like meltdown, hurling patrons around the room using telekinesis.

The result was a YouTube video broadcasting the terror felt by coffee shop customers while they thought a horror movie was unfolding right before their eyes. Today, that video has over 38 million views and numerous articles written about it.

With brands finding it increasingly difficult to advertise effectively via traditional channels, techniques such as prankvertising are gaining traction among major brands. While the Carrie stunt was one of the first in the U.S., LG created a similar prank in Chile a few months back. LG placed one of their 84-inch HD TV in an office where the window should be and wired the office with hidden cameras. When unsuspecting job applicants sat in the office for an interview, a catastrophic meteor shower took place outside the “window,” complete with lights going out in the office. The interviewees, of course, freaked out, creating an amusing and very popular video – while also demonstrating the clear and lifelike picture of the TV.

Given the success of both of these campaigns, it seems as though prankvertising might continue to gain steam. And while the technique is sure to gain some laughs, it has the potential to backfire in a major way. Given the extreme nature of some of the stunts, a heart attack by an observer isn’t out of the question. So advertisers will have to weigh if the risk is worth the reward.

Until a prank does backfire, I’ll look forward to watching more pranks unfold, at least until this technique goes the way of the flash mob – eventually annoying the masses and dying out for the next big thing.

Kathryn Kaplan
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