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The Antidote to Prankvertising?


little video called “Best Shift Ever” has been making the blog rounds this week, and it could be the antidote to hoax fatigue and tired prankvertising.
The clip is the work of YouTube channel Break, which chose to approach April Fool’s differently this year by setting up an elaborate stunt not to scare or torment, but to “prank it forward” and make someone’s day. Their target was an L.A. waitress named Chelsea, whose co-workers and friends worked with Break to give her a “life-changing tip.” Viewers are first given a background on Chelsea: she has gone through tough times, but works hard and when she’s not waiting tables runs a non-profit yoga studio to help individuals suffering from eating disorders. Then we watch her react as throughout the course of her shift she is given a series of amazing tips, including $1000, a paid trip to Hawaii, a dream job, and a car. The stunt turns prankvertising on its head, making it a force for good.

Regular readers know we have been tracking the progress of prankvertising from the start of the trend, and have recently become wary of hoax fatigue. Our Q1 Lifeline report, released to subscribers this week, delves into the phenomena of the Age of Not Believing:

For Millennials, not believing what they see in front of them has become an instinct…Hoaxes are having their heyday, majorly contributing to Millennials’ constant state of disbelief. Comedians are pulling one over on brands, publications, and consumers by marketing new (fake) products as if they were real, and brands and content producers are creating convincing campaigns that center around fooling the public.

We’ve warned before that the more pranks the Millennial public is exposed to, the less effective the approach may be for brands, and we aren’t the only ones who think that hoax marketing might be “running amok.” The trend continues, but this fresh twist could breath new life into consumer’s reactions.

“Best Shift Ever” as been viewed almost 5 million times in four days-—far, far more than Break’s previous prank videos—and the positive pranking spin is taking the trend from silly, and sometimes mean spirited, to heartwarming. (Yes, Xers, we know that’s so Millennial.) The shift creates a powerful hybrid of prankvertising’s surprise element and the uplift of tissue box marketing. Reaction comments on a Sploid post of the video show the appreciation for the more uplifting nature of the prank:

“This was a great video. It’s kinda nice to see some positivity for a change”
“I love ‘good natured’ pranks like this…and the stuff that Improv Everywhere does.”
“I hate pranks. I f*cking HATE them. They’re always so mean. This prank I love.”

The feel-good effects of the video don’t stop there. “Best Shift Ever” closes with Break explaining their “Prank It Forward” initiative: the more views the video gets, the more money they will be donated to charity, and they plan to “use [their] prank powers for good” the entire month of April. Visitors to the Prank It FWD site can read recommendations for positive pranks they can do themselves, and submit their own positive prank video for a chance to win $500.

The fact that there are still some commenters on YouTube questioning the authenticity of and motivation for the prank just goes to show how dubious the Millennial audience has become. But the vast majority of viewers reacted with positivity and appreciation, and “pranking for good” is clearly a welcome change of pace. Brands take note: the prankvertising trend could be leading to major hoax fatigue with Millennial consumers, but if you feel the need to jump on the pranking bandwagon, this positive twist could be the approach to emulate.