Prankvertising – Outrageous or Worth The Penny?

To what extent would brands go to ensure they stay in the mind of the audience? Is it all about getting good publicity or are the norms of “any publicity is good publicity” getting more widespread?

Marketing and advertising has changed a lot in the past few years. The field has become more creative as the competition itself has become cut-throat. The battle is not just about who gets the best sales figures but also about who can get the best and most memorable creative marketing/advertising campaign out there.

Prankvertising - New form of advertising?

From old school marketing to digital campaigns to integrated campaigns, there’s a shift now to Prankvertising – using pranks as an advertising ingredient. Such tactics aren’t anything new, but of late, its getting extreme, increasingly cluttered and immensely complex. All these put together in the hope of building up an extreme emotion in a human which in-turn makes the campaign memorable – be it in a good or bad way.

These campaigns involve, in a major chunk, real life average people who have no idea whatsoever they are a part of. Such creatives often blur the border between whats acceptable and whats invasive. Not all the persons involved might enjoy the same sense of humour as the brand.

Fear, shock, ecstacy, anger – all such extreme emotions lie in the core of any prankvertising campaign. And that’s exactly the boon and the danger. Consider the following campaign by the movie The Last Excorcism Part II.

Yes, the campaign is in line with the concept of the movie and does justice. But what if any of the people on whom the prank was played, was a heart patient? Or if anyone of them, in a moment of reaction took up a knife and did something drastic?

Also Read: Most successful Twitter Campaigns of 2013

Most of the prankvertising campaigns are just gags as the ones we usually see on TV. Marketers are doing their best in utilising these on a whole new level. Although risky, it is just another creative device to garner attention in public and in media. But should that compromise on the sensibility factor?

Because of the logistics, pre and post-production needed, such campaigns tend to be pretty hard on the pocket. Similar to integrated campaigns one might see, the exact correlation between the prank and the ROI cannot be measured. One would have to suffice with the high level of social media activity gained and the “share of conversation”. The direct impact on the brand might not be able to be measured per se, but that again depends on what are the KPIs taken into consideration.

One of the most well known prankvertising campaign was TNT’s “Push to Add Drama” Ad

and LG’s Meteor Prank

Regardless of how creative the campaign was or how viral it went online, in depth one has to analyze how well the campaign stayed true to its message. Just because a brand has a creative idea, does not mean it can go forth with a prankvertising campaign. For example, in India, if Tata Motors goes forth with a prankvertising campaign, it might look out of place as it not considered to be a spunky brand. On the other hand, if something similar is done by Levis, Tata Docomo or Mountain Dew, it would seem sensible enough.

Cutting to the point, the only thing matters is if it compliments your brand message and if it’ll be worth the effort. Because-“everyone-is-doing-it-I’ll-also do-it” mentality isn’t going to work out.

No one wants a brand to be associated with a negative emotion. Hence when one plans to adhere to prankvertising, a lot has to be thought about. The chances of backfiring are high, as it involves real people in a real environment. And nothing is more unpredictable than human behaviour!

All said, this is one avenue marketers are dying to explore more. In days to come, expect more outrageous and inexplicable stuff. Marketers will try to beat-the-sh*t out of each other as we see more and more of them trying to gather the attention of a much distracted audience. And in the end, we’ll either reach a stage when prankvertising becomes old-school, or when public starts suing up brands for giving them a heart attack in a beauty salon.

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