Pranks for attention: How to generate media attention with provocation


Okay – where’s the hype about pranks coming from? YouTube is full of videos where normal people make fun of others by scaring or shocking them, only to record the (admittedly very funny) reactions. And the whole world watches – and loves it. They want more surprising and provocative actions and unexpected reactions. And that’s why pranks work so well. Also in PR.

Pranks entertain, surprise, shock and polarize. Just like good media stories do. We know which stories work best and – important point – our ideas are mostly out-of-the-box. We like to be funny, cheeky and above all creative. Because according to the definition, a prank – or “practical joke” – is “an imaginative idea with the aim of annoying, provoking or scaring others”. And that is what we want with our ideas.

A perfect media story is like a perfect date

Anyone who has ever had a bad date knows how unbearable it is. Abort mission and run away. The same happens with a bad story: If the first few sentences are not gripping, it’s over. The media want something to talk about – just what we want on a date. They want stories that surprise, entertain, grab attention, polarize and shock. Fact is: A boring 0815 date has never turned into the one great love. That’s why you need to be different, creative, funny and above all: stand out from the crowd!

Pranking takes courage

With a good prank you never know how it will end. Will the media jump on it? Are we hitting a nerve? Or will it backfire? The line between a viral story and a shitstorm can be very fine. Let’s give it up for our very bold clients! Thank you for trusting us and being brave and for loving our ideas as much as we do. Sometimes you just have to take a risk to be rewarded. Dare something no one has ever dared before. Otherwise, you are just one of many, and who wants to be that? And because we’re real pranksters at FBC, we love brainstorming polarizing, surprising and unexpected ideas to generate attention for our clients and shake up the media world.

LEGO playing CEOs, snow dealers and sexy politicians

That we have the courage has been proven many times in the past. Together with our customer BRICKLIVE, we sent an Easter parcel with a LEGO bus to Susanne Ruoff, the head of the Swiss Postal Service, after the bus affair and asked her to play with it. “If life puts bricks in your path, don’t step on them, but put them together”. Or when we looked at a slightly different aspect of the elections and asked the users of our customer TheCasualLounge which politician they fancy the most (yes, there are sexy politicians, too). Or just recently, when we sent comedian Kiko out on the streets as a snow dealer on behalf of our client Engadin St. Moritz Tourismus AG to sell “the best snow in Switzerland”. It was, of course, real snow from the Engadin and a PR campaign for the dynamic pricing system Snow-Deal. Fortunately, we had a good hand for a story this time, too and ensured a great echo in the media world.

And one more tip

The next time you ask yourself whether your prank idea works in the media, ask yourself the following five questions: Has Ms. Mueller ever heard of something like this before? (news value) Does Aunt Hedwig understand what I’m talking about? (simplicity) Does Mr. Meier talk about it in his favorite bar? (actuality) Does your sister feel addressed? (proximity) Does your neighbor make a funny face, when he hears about the story? (curiosity). If you answer all these questions with ‘yes’, then it should work! Because never forget – keep it simple and stupid!