A great advertisement sells something and strikes a primal emotion. Last year, advertisers from around the world became obsessed with marketing through fear.
The trend of using a terrifying hidden camera prank to promote a product became so popular that it even got its own name, “prankvertising.”
Most of the ads included in this list got tens of millions of views on YouTube, but their critics wondered if views actually translated into effective marketing.
Apparently, ad agencies believed the viral exposure was worth the risk of a prank victim not taking too kindly to the stunt, as new prankvertisements kept popping up throughout the year.
And there’s even one from this month, meaning that the trend is not over just yet.
We’ll take a look at some highlights, some of which are highly questionable in their attempts at horrifying people — but pretty funny nonetheless.
Carrie: ‘Telekinetic Coffee Surprise’
Patrons of a coffee shop in New York City’s West Village got a psychic attack to go along with their lattes last fall. To promote the remake of the classic horror film ‘Carrie,’ a production crew had an actress appear to have an angry telekinetic outburst.
With the help of props, remote controls, and a couple other actors, it looked as if this woman got revenge on the guy who spilled her coffee by using her mind to throw him against a wall and raise hell in the otherwise pleasant cafe:
Nivea: ‘The Stress Test’
To promote its new deodorant in Germany, the charmingly awkward-sounding ‘Stress Protect’ stick, Nivea decided to freak out a few people waiting for their flight.
When they were not paying attention, a photographer snapped a pic of the brand’s target. A crew then quickly got to work printing up a fake newspaper with the person’s face plastered on the cover, and sent out a ‘newscast’ announcing to the airport that this person was on the run from authorities and considered dangerous. Eventually the authorities arrive — with an attache case full of Nivea products.
Apparently they would have dealt with the situation better if they had Stress Protect on:
Carlsberg: ‘Carlsberg Puts Friends To The Test’
If your buddy called you at 3:00am and asked for a couple hundred bucks to save him from a dangerous poker game, would you drive to a sketchy part of town to save him?
Carlsberg beer did this experiment in the China Town in Antwerp, Belgium. It set up an elaborate underground poker club, filled with freaks, flames, and martial arts matches. The friends reluctantly pushed through the absurd maze until they found the seedy poker game. As soon as they laid the bills on the table, a curtain fell to reveal a production team, and the beer got flowing:
Dead Man Down’: ‘Elevator Murder Experiment’
Ok, so this is probably the most ridiculous prank on the list, and the one that could have easily ended up very badly.
To promote the Blu-Ray release of the box office clunker ‘Dead Man Down,’ a crew rigged a New York City elevator with hidden cameras and had a man pretend to strangle another guy. Some prank victims screamed in horror, some tried to help, and others pretended not to notice anything before walking away.
If you really want to lose faith in humanity, however, please watch the guy at 1:35. He calmly takes out his camera phone to snap a pic:
Safe Internet Banking: ‘See How Easily Freaks Can Take Over Your Life’
The Belgian advocacy group Safe Internet Banking thought the best way to compel people to safely manage their financial data online would be by completely stealing a man’s identity, essentially becoming his evil twin.
The group used a makeup artist to recreate its victim, and posted Facebook photos of the doppelganger and tagged the victim. It also ordered expensive items in his name, said hi to his friends, and generally creeped the guy out to his core:
England Department For Transport: ‘#PubLooShocker’
This prank has the distinction of being the only one with a message. Unsurprisingly, a prankvertisement PSA involves scaring the hell out of someone with breaking glass and fake blood.
England’s Department for Transport decided to get across the message to not drink and drive by taking it to the problem’s usual source, a bar. Men going to wash their hands after the using the bathroom were greeted by an exploding mirror with a bloody mannequin face crashing through it.
The campaign’s tagline was ‘What impact could a drink have on your night out?’ A pun and a hashtag, in the same promotion:
The Curse Of Chucky: ‘Fright At The Bus Stop’
The Brazilian variety show ‘Programa Silvio Santos’ has a popular hidden camera segment, so considering the international trend of scaring the money out of people’s pockets, it was only time before it joined in the fun.
To promote the direct-to-video ‘The Curse of Chucky’ from Universal Studios, Santos’ team hid a guy dressed as Chucky behind a movie poster at a bus stop. As people waited for their ride, Chucky burst through the glass and chased the unsuspecting victims with a prop knife. It’s pretty extreme as far as prankvertisements go, but Silvio laughs throughout the video.
The action starts around 1:08:
Devil’s Due: ‘Devil Baby Attack’
The new horror film ‘The Devil’s Due,’ about a woman pregnant with the Antichrist, pulled off the first big prankvertisement of 2014.
The prank’s production team created a remote controlled ‘devil baby’ with a remarkable level of movement (and the ability to spew vomit!). It left the baby’s stroller unattended throughout New York City, and any would-be Good Samaritans were in for a terrifying surprise.
It’s pretty hilarious:
Benjamin Moore: ‘Scariest Job In The World’
Apparently some contractors will take a job in a supposedly ‘haunted hotel’ in the middle of the night.
The paint company Benjamin Moore decided to prank these painters with furniture that moved on its own and a screaming ghost girl. The only thing connecting this stunt to the product was that paint was involved, but hey, it was almost Halloween at the time.
Our favourite is the guy introduced at 1:26. When a chandelier starts shaking, he boldly asserts, ‘Hey, I don’t fool with no ghosts’:
LG: ‘Ultra Reality’ Meteor Prank
Google ‘LG prank’ and you’ll find that the Korean electronics corporation is a notorious repeat offender. In its most popular video, the Chilean branch of the company set up an HD television to look like an office window. Job applicants would then see a meteor strike the city outside, and Armageddon would ensue:
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