Why Are We so Hooked on Prankvertising?

2013 was truly the year of prankvertising, and the trend has bled into 2014. Promoting movies, soft drinks, airlines, smartphones, beer and even phone books, brands have entertained millions of online video viewers with prankvertising efforts. Branded prank videos have flooded the Internet as companies scrambled to capitalize on this viral trend. So why aren’t we bored? Why are we so hooked on prankvertising?

It’s because we love dramatic irony. As part of the audience, we feel like one of the pranksters ourselves. In most videos, we have an idea of what’s going to happen, and we can’t wait to see how the prankees react. For example, last year Thinkmodo created a prank video for the remake of Stephen King’s Carrie. Titled “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise,” this hidden camera experiment captured the reactions of unsuspecting patrons at a New York City coffee shop.

From the beginning, we get an inside look at the technology behind the trick and then proceed to laugh at the coffee shop customers’ freak outs. Of course we wanted our friends to enjoy the video too; so we shared it—2.7 million times, in fact. The video went viral practically overnight and now boasts 54.7 million YouTube views. Throughout 2013, a plethora of brands threw their hats into the prankvertising ring to generate significant engagement and viewership with their videos. Check out these three standouts below:


RESULTS: 10.4 million YouTube views and 277,000 social shares.

LG Meteor Prank

RESULTS: 15.8 million YouTube views and 807,000 social shares.

Beauty Shop Scare

RESULTS: 3.7 million YouTube views and 86,000 social shares.

With statistics like these, is it any wonder so many companies have hopped onto this viral marketing trend? We’re bombarded with advertisements on a daily bases which has forced brands to get creative and produce over-the-top marketing content. The cost and complexity of prankvertising is enough to scare anyone away, but if it’s executed correctly it can yield great returns for a business.

“From our perspective…it will more than pay for itself in earned media and ‘share of conversation.’ That, in turn, translates into brand worth, which in turn drives sales,” says Thomas Moradpour, vp, global marketing at Carlsberg.

For now, we’re hungry for this type of entertaining content. Though some believe the prankvertising trend has hit its peak, 2014 has already brought us some pretty great prankvertising videos like the ones below:

Devil Baby Attack

RESULTS: 43.5 million YouTube views and 2.3 million social shares.

Hungry Bear Loose in NYC

RESULTS: 4 million YouTube views and 32,000 social shares.

Pepsi MAX & Jeff Gordon Present: “Test Drive 2”

RESULTS: 14.1 million YouTube views and 633,000 social shares.

I don’t think prankvertising is going away anytime soon. As long as they remain entertaining and the branding isn’t overwhelming, prankvertising videos are here to stay.


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