Pranking and The Simple Power of Surprise

Prank videos are not high art. They rarely feature very good production values.

But they are undeniably fun to watch. Because nothing cuts through the veneer of human pretense as quickly as surprise. You can’t front when you’re in the throes of a genuine reaction. This simple truth explains why those galleries of haunted house visitor reaction photos are so popular and so much fun.

“Rahat” is a leading internet practicioner of pranking, or in his case, magical pranking. This mono-monikered street magician hosts a popular YouTube channel that boasts nearly two and a half mllion subscribers. He regularly releases new magic pranks, all featuring peoples’ genuine reactions to his surprising tricks. The one above is his October entry and has already been picked up by outlets like The Huffington Post.

No, they’re not sophisticated. Look at his chosen title graphics: that’s the type of garish font one might associate with a wholesale liquidator outlet.

Still, it’s shareworthy content. Definitely shareworthy. Happy Friday!


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

The NFL, The Viral Audience, and Rapping White Guys

The NFL is big, big business. Two weeks ago, Forbes pegged the average value of its 32 teams at $1.17 billion dollars and its operating margin at 15.4%. Those are huge numbers, reflecting just how pervasive professional football has become in our culture.

At the same time, the best way to make branded content shareworthy is through specificity–engaging a select interest group with their own special language, symbols and values. Where broadcast television pitches brands to the largest possible audience, successful brand content intentionally seeks out smaller, more defined groups that are more likely to self-select, share and act. In this way, great content works like a heat-seeking missile, earning forwards only among a brand’s most relevant and valuable audience.

So how do you make shareworthy content for a subject with a very broad target? In DirecTV’s case, you make a three minute commercial with rapping white guys. Celebrity white guys. The family Manning…

Rapping white guys has become a genre onto itself; it’s been done well and done painfully. But it’s now a comedy vein that’s been over-mined . As great as Peyton Manning’s comic timing is–and I honestly believe it is great–even he can’t lift this one from humorous to hilarious. Certainly this clip is well written. It has some lovely moments and the wigs are funny–although Archie’s seems oddly reminiscent of Brian Jones. Yet in the final tally, it doesn’t really make the shareworthy bar for any reason other than the Manning family’s football celebrity. Moreover, it features classic broadcast product copy at both the beginning and the end–actions that would alienate an online audience were it not for the general likability of its stars and topic.

Given the NFL’s enormous influence and the success of viral seeding, this clip has and will get plenty of views. With pre-season anticipation and excitement this high, anything solid that fills our demand for football will do the trick.

This piece is definitely solid, if not overly original. Then again, this is brand content as broadcast. So in this instance, that’s probably enough.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson