Prankvertising – is it Worth the Risk?

I was having drinks with a friend who works for a digital experience firm here in Montreal and the topic of prankvertising came up. She’s not a fan. Why? Well, in her own words “For the same reason that I hated the Borat movie concept and actually dislike the more harmful Just For Laughs gags, I find corporations profiting from putting the general public in a position of serious discomfort is antithetical to much of the evolving marketing best practices which are to put the consumer experience first.”

Great point. Difficult to rebut. But I’ll give it a shot.

Is it risky? Yes. Are there liabilities galore? Yes. But I love this Sh**! It’s fun, exhilarating, breaks all the rules, and despite the logistics and spend to make it happen it can translate into tremendous brand worth! Consumers are bored with advertising today. Brands need to be more creative than ever and not all prankvertising puts “the general public in a position of serious discomfort”. Besides, if you’ve been prankvertised you’ll most likely get over it once you’ve realize what’s happened and you get your 15 minutes of fame.

Why do brands prankvertise?

Prankvertising is not necessarily about sales, if they happen great, but tracking a direct bump is near impossible. It’s about earned media and conversation. That is priceless! I posted about this before, the notion of spending money on building brand equity and not boosting sales. Many brands still don’t get it.

Prankvertising may not be for all brands, especially when it comes to budget, but here are, in my opinion, 2 great examples of prankvertising in the wild.

TNT  – Push to Add Drama

Carlsberg puts friends to the test!

So why are brands willing to take the risk and spend the big bucks to pull off these outrageously complex and risky prankvertising stunts? This is what Thomas Moradpour, VP global marketing at Carlsberg told Adweek:

“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 … We won’t be able to track a direct bump —too many variables — but we’ll measure the impact on brand health and equity through our brand trackers in all of our key international markets.”

What stands out in Moradpour’s comment is that Carlsberg as a brand understands that spending money on community, or in his words “earned media and ‘share of conversation.’“, is good for their brand equity. They get that it’s about the consumer first. Otherwise, willingness to take such an expensive and potentially liable risk would not be in their marketing spend.

We’re seeing more brands grasping at social media and trying to figure out what viral is all about. Many brands, or at least C-level executives, can’t get past traditional marketing efforts like print, TV, and radio, etc. Not that any of these channels are dead, but the yield, even for a major brand, has significantly decreased as consumers tire of the same old beverage, car, and retail commercials. This is where forward-thinking brands can take the risk and attempt to “go viral”. But be careful! Going viral is not always about doing something dumb and low budget. Good viral campaigns usually have a plan and budget behind them – I recently blogged about this.

Not all “viral” video needs to be a heart-wrenching, eye-watering, jaw-dropping prankvertisement!

So you want to do something crazy and generate buzz, but you’re not ready or willing to take the risk on prankvertising – no problem! This is where creative agencies like ourselves excel at helping brands build a more grassroots approach to marketing with “on the streets” and in public stunts.

Recently Thinkmodo  was named “The Kings of Viral Marketing” by Adweek.  Why? Simple. They take the marketing out of marketing and bring brands to the consumer – where they work and play! I stumbled upon this great little documentary on Thinkmodo entitled “Making Viral Matter”. I was truly inspired by this video and hope to bring some of these philosophies to our clients.

What do you think of prankvertising? Is it worth the risk? Does it work? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

One thought on “Prankvertising – is it Worth the Risk?

  1. Pingback: The Mandatory Super Bowl Commercials Recap Post | Keep Marketing Fun

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