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Prankvertising: An emotional and memorable tool

Prankvertising is a communication strategy used to promote a brand, product, or service by combining a prank within an advertising campaign. The aim of prankvertising is to link the campaign to a strong emotion, such as fear, so that people will remember the experience and talk about it with their friends. To create a Prankvertising experience, the brand needs to create a stage in a relevant location such as a cinema, or restaurant and ensure that the trickery becomes an unforgettable story for the public so it can generate a viral buzz!

Fear is related to memory, that’s why this tool is increasingly used in communication campaigns. For example, the campaign for the movie Carrie saw a remake of a scene inside a coffee shop, where a possessed woman levitated people and objects telepathically. The scene was a massive success with the frightened public and received more than 60 million views on Youtube.

When people feel fear, they often react strangely, and those strange reactions often appear humorous to others. The aim of this prankvertising was to scare the people being filmed, but also to create content that might be shared by peers.

But fear is a negative emotion – an emotion that we do not wish to experience. So why is it this emotion works so well? Perhaps it is because the memory of fear sits in our mind for a long time.

To show the realism of their new ultra HD television, Samsung simulated the arrival of a meteorite on earth through the television during a fake job interview.

The candidates think that the TV is a window, but judging by their reactions as they try to maintain their composure during their interviews, the display on the screen is so realistic that some jump our of their seats in fear, creating excellent video content and PR for the TV company.

Even if Internet users and the protagonists of prankvertising accept fear, there are limits not to be exceeded. In the prankvertising for the film “Dead Man Down” the company organised a situation where regular people became trapped in a lift, unknowingly, with two actors who act out a murder scene.

The notion of fear here is associated with possible actual death, and so this one over steps the line so much that is is difficult to laugh about. It goes further than harmless ‘surprise fear’, into genuine ‘I could actually die here’ territory.

It is important for advertisers to be aware of this thin line between what is and isn’t appropriate fear inducing content, in order to create a long lasting impression for all the right reasons.