Nobody reads hard copies of magazines and newspapers anymore.
Print ads are as good as dead.
Nobody watches TV commercials anymore, except during the Super Bowl.
And those spots have gotten inarguably worse and worse in the last 20 years.
What's an increasingly marginalized ad agency — long considered the one and only place to get "good creative" to do?
Make videos, of course. That's what the kids watch. Make a video, and hope like Hell it goes viral, so you can then point at the views number in client meetings and say "see, we're getting eyeballs."
One of most popular methods now to get those "eyeballs" is the fake ad stunt, or "shockvertising," (or "prankvertising") as is it is called by trade journalists.
How this usually works is the ad agency sets up a scenario where "innocent" people are ambushed or even horribly shocked in public. Let's look at some recent examples.
1. Dead Man Down
The above instance of shockvertising was created last March to promote the movie Dead Man Down. It was made by Thinkmodo, a New York City agency whose website copy line is "BE CREATIVE. BE ENGAGING. GO VIRAL."
Thinkmodo claimed that this horrifying video features "regular bystanders, not actors, happening upon what appears to be an attempted murder."
That, is almost certainly complete bullshit.
These people may or may not have been actors, but if they were "regular bystanders," they were at the least told that this was a fake scene, if not exactly what the scene they were about to witness, was going to be. The reactions were too staged, and, well, somebody could have gotten seriously hurt.
This is the new shockvertising. The video has over 6 million views, so it's a "success."
The movie, however, starring Colin Farrell and a major supporting cast, made under $11 million domestically — not many eyeballs.
2. Nivea "Stress Protect" Deodorant
How would you like to be sitting in an airport, waiting for your plane, when all of sudden, you find out you're a wanted fugitive? That would be stressful.
Nivea and ad agency Felix & Lamberti "ambushed" a series of "unsuspecting" people.
The agency secretly took each person's photo, then quickly printed it on a fake newspaper cover identifying the person as a fugitive, which an actor would then carry over and pretend to read near the person. Next, the photo would appear on a TV overhead, as part of a fake newscast that described the person as "dangerous and unpredictable."
But, ta-da — fake security personnel appear and reveal the stunt.
Does this make you make want to buy the product?
Again, Nivea says the victims were not actors. The brand claims to have thoroughly researched the marks to make sure they were healthy enough to take part (no known heart problems, for example), and that it had the people's friends lure them to the airport.
And again, this has gotta be malarkey.
Seriously, imagine the legal consequences if somebody freaked the fuck out in an airport these days. And how did they "thoroughly research" these people? Please.
What contrived utter crap.
3. Mini Cooper — don't makeup and drive
Via Mexico, this stunt literally blows up in women's faces.
The copy in this sexist ad claims that 22% of car accidents are caused by women. OK. but, how many of those accidents are actually caused by women applying makeup while driving?
At least there's no bullshit claim this time that these ladies are unsuspecting civilians.
Ad agency: Publicis Mexico.
4. London Department of Transporation
Finally, even governments are trying out shockvertising.
Let's a take trip to the loo with some drunk British men (no, again just actors).
Just washing my hands, thinking about that blond bird, and...
BLOODY MANNEQUIN HEAD THROUGH THE MIRROR!
What's amazing to me is to read how many YouTube commenters think this is a real stunt. (They're probably mostly agency people fake-commenting.) Again, think of the legal consequences if somebody hurt themselves or died of a heart attack.
Do you think this ad, by Leo Burnett London, is effective? The video has 3.7 million views in only three days, lots of "eyeballs."
But, do you think it will curb drunk driving one iota?
Do you think it would be more or less effective than a billboard in Trafalgar Square, large white type on a black background, that read:
That ad would certainly be much less shocking.