What is a Prankvert?


“What is a prankvert”? This is an interesting question because in the world of advertising it creates an opportunity to engage with markets across the world. It is particularly relevant today because the social media channels are a great way to host these campaigns.

So, what are they then? Well, pranverts or prank adverts are advertisements or commercials that involve unsuspecting individuals or groups. This type of project can be risky in the sense that these individuals may decide that they will not want the copy to be aired. You need to make sure that you complete a full risk assessment of the shoot and build in contingencies: the most obvious being, to have a number of takes with different people / groups. You must also make sure that the prankverts abide by your country’s advertising standards.

Prankverts tend to be transformational adverts (ie, engaging in people’s emotions and associating the brand with those feelings). They can also be informational (explaining the benefits of the brand): the Adobe video below is a good example of this.

As prankverts involve only a small number of people, the campaigners need to decide how to “maximise the reach”. This can be done by either using social media channels (primarily YouTube) or TV commercials or even both. If you can have a readymade audience during the filming then your outcome is likely to be even better (see the T-Mobile examples below). A key success factor will be the “turn round” time of the production: you need to post the shoot as soon as possible, people will still be buzzing about it (social media channels are best for this).

Let’s now take a look at some examples of prankverts on YouTube:

T-Moble Liverpool St Flash Mob Dance Advert High Quality. This was filmed at London’s Liverpool Street Station in January 2009.

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The T-Mobile Welcome Back. This was filmed at London’s Heathrow Terminal 5. Arriving passengers were given a welcome home to remember (October 2010).

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A Dramatic Surprise on a quiet square: designed to launch the TV channel TNT in Belgium (April 2012)

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Jeff Gordon and Pepsi MAX go to a car dealership where a disguised Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting car salesman on the test drive of his life (March 2013).

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Photoshop Live – Street Retouch Prank, Photoshop produce a campaign using hidden cameras at a bus stop (June 2013).

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The concept of prankverts are not new although to date it has mainly been activists who have used it to high jack live broadcast to get their messages across. These days brand managers can use it to promote the values of the product. Over 13 million in 10 days for Photoshop has got to be a great return on investment.

Related articles:

  1. Involvement and Motivational Advertising Strategies.
  2. Social Media Marketing Campaigns from around the world.
  3. Videos and the World of Marketing.
  4. Social Media.
  5. Social Media a business driver or divider?
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Dr Alan Shaw is a Senior Lecturer and Marketing consultant focusing on a range of sectors. His main interests are in strategy development, social marketing, digital marketing, advertising, consumer behaviour and marketing application.
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