Lenovo’s Prankvertising Stunt Pulls Views From Shoppers

Lenovo is the latest brand to jump on the “prankvertising” trend by launching a video that uses candid hidden cameras to prank unsuspecting mall shoppers.

In the videos, actors from the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe pose as computer salesmen and lure shoppers to a kiosk to compare the flexible Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro to an inflexible MacBook Air. When the MacBook breaks in half, hidden cameras capture customers’ irate reactions at being asked to pay for the damages. At the end of the two-and-a-half-minute video, the actors finally let the targets in on the joke.

Lenovo’s digital marketing manager, Bob Cordell, says that prankvertising is an effective means of getting audiences to watch a longer product demonstration, since they’re anticipating a punch line.

“As marketers, we ask ourselves what we can do with video that will make people watch. With the [prankvertising] format, the viewer knows what’s coming, and it’s about seeing it all unfold,” Cordell says.

Another reason prankvertising has seen such popularity with both brands and audiences alike is because good-natured pranks lend authenticity to brands that are looking to connect with younger customers across social media.

For example, Mondelez candy brand Sour Patch Kids recently teamed up with social media celebrity Logan Paul, who has 5.8 million Vine followers, to launch the brand’s Snapchat account by featuring a series of Snapchats showing Paul being pranked by a life-sized Sour Patch Kid.

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“Logan Paul’s prankster personality was a natural fit for Sour Patch Kids, which helped the essence of the Sour Patch Kids brand to come through in the campaign,” says Farrah Bezner, the Sour Patch Kids marketing director for Mondelez International.

Using pranks and social media stars is an effective way to draw in teenage audiences who are often wary of advertising because prankervertising puts “influencers in the forefront, creating opportunities for them to talk about our brand in a way that’s natural and creating buzz without the brand having to talk about itself,” Bezner says.

Partnering with silly pranksters like the Upright Citizens Brigade and Logan Paul also helps brands portray themselves as fun rather than stiff, which lets them get away with gently ribbing competitors — for example, snapping competing laptops in half — while still appearing lighthearted.

“The videos are a way we can give people a sense of who we are as a company and give our brand a little bit of a personality,” Cordell says. “We’re also featuring a pretty well-known competitor in the piece. We know there are a lot of passionate supporters of other brands, and so we felt like the videos show a sense of humor. And at the end of the day, if there is a spat that’s started, it’s easy to step back and say, ‘Wait a second, really?'”

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