Alternative Ads: Pranking Goes Commercial

Filed under: Co-option (If You Can't Beat 'Em...), Media Literacy, The Future of Pranks

Advertisers are trying harder and harder to trick consumers with ads that mimic the work of pranksters, street artists and media activists. Going viral with your ad has become the brass ring, with customers doing all the heavy lifting (i.e., distributing these ad campaigns through YouTube, blogs and emails) for free for the advertisers.

It’s challenging to tell the difference between true guerrilla theater and this new trend of verité advertising. Here’s a hint: listen to the audio quality and watch for camera angles. Frequently, the main character who’s supposed to be the unsuspecting target of a joke is wearing a hidden microphone and there are at least three distinct camera angles, meaning it’s an expensive multi-camera shoot. If it sounds and looks too good to be true — it probably is.

Check out this article On Advertising: Alternative advertising to grab your attention, by Stephanie Clifford of the International Herald Tribune, August 3, 2008.

And, this viral commercial video submitted by Andrew Boyd yesterday:

Hidden Camera Penny Prank in Jewelry Store

This one, picked up from V. Vale’s RE/Search Newsletter, is just a regular German commercial, but fun (and viral) because of its shock value.

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