Heart Attacks for YouTube Views – The Ups and Downs of Prankvertising

This current age of new media provides so many outlets and forms of reaching an audience that it can be challenging to have a message stand out and be heard or seen.  With people being bombarded by hundreds of advertisements a day, from flashing billboards to complex television commercials, advertising agencies have to utilize new methods of getting their clients noticed.

One practice that is becoming more popular is a technique called “Prankvertising”.  With this approach, an agency sets up a prank involving an unsuspecting person who is unaware that they are part of a stunt.  These pranks are designed to highlight a certain sense of fear, stress, or any other emotion that is connected to the product that is being promoted.  For example, a scary movie would set up a prank that sparks fear in the unsuspecting victim.  Their emotions are captured on camera and then the footage is released with the intent of gaining attention.

The use of “Prankvertising” is not a new concept, but it has been taken to another level recently (Gianatasio, 2013).  Elaborate pranks have been performed to help promote movies and products, such as this coffee shop stunt promoting the movie Carrie.  With movies and other products using many different forms of advertisement, it is difficult to measure just how much a “prankvertisement” generates in revenue (Gianatasio, 2013).  With this style of advertising, the money works differently.  Instead of paying for commercial space or sponsored athletes, the funds behind “Prankvertising” go towards setting up the stunt, paying the surrounding actors, and to the unsuspecting victim after the prank is revealed (Gianatasio, 2013).  After the footage is gathered, it is released to the public through free forms such as YouTube where the promotion hopefully goes viral.  For example, the “Push to Add Drama” campaign for the network TNT had over 44 million views on YouTube.  While it is impossible to know exactly how much revenue a “Prankvertisement” generates, millions of views prove that the desired publicity is achieved.

Although this form of advertisement is unique and attention grabbing, it is controversial.  There are plenty of risks involved in “Prankvertising”, such as the short and long-term effects on the victim who had to experience the prank as reality.  By putting random people in frightening or stressful situations, the agency (and their client) is facing the possibility of inducing heart attacks or other health issues (Gianatasio, 2013).  Not only do the producers of the promotion need to worry about the victim of the prank, they also must concern themselves with the public perception.  There is the potential of a prank going too far, in which case viewers might view the product being advertised in a negative way (Gianatasio, 2013).

With all of the clutter in the marketplace, advertising agencies have to be creative and consistently push the envelope to get noticed.  The use of “Prankvertising” can be an answer, but a risky one.


Watch another example here.


Gianatasio, D. (2013, April 01). Prankvertising: Are outrageous marketing stunts worth the risk?. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/prankvertising-are-outrageous-marketing-stunts-worth-risks-148238?page=1

Mundo LG (2013, September 2). Ultra reality: what would you do in this situation? LG meteor prank. Retrieved February 6, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynvKWYvyCqw.

Rogers, D. (2013, October 09). Telekinetic coffee shop prank is a promotion for carrie. Retrieved from http://www.awfuladvertisements.com/2013/october/telekinetic-coffee-shop-prank-is-a-promotion-for-carrie.html

One thought on “Heart Attacks for YouTube Views – The Ups and Downs of Prankvertising

  1. I think this type of advertising isn’t good for us because it means we always have to be on alert. Fight or flight mode is amped up anxiety which is actually really bad for you internally. I think this would be a really interesting topic to learn more about from an advertisers and conusmers point of view.


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