Prank : A mischievous trick or practical joke.
Laughing at other people´s expense is nothing new, but right now it seems to be the most popular form of online video content. My oldest memory of watching something in this similar vein would be the hit TV show from the UK ´Beadles About! ´. This was a TV show stimulated from the rise of the home video camera, and was more often than not filled with short clips of human fails, or constructed stitch ups (pranks).
TV stations continued to explore the ´prank´formula long after ´Beadles About´ , and one of the most successful series in recent memory has to be MTV´s Punk´d.
But now this prank formula has been re-envisioned by brands rather than TV stations. LG & Vitamin Water (#makeboringbrilliant with College Humour production) are two great examples of how brands are investing in the content production directly, and using digital distribution platforms such as YouTube to connect with their audience.
Comedy, it seems, is a pretty effective way of grabbing a young audiences attention. The very nature of comedy makes any brand message more real, it´s more light-hearted, less serious, and rewarding. Then again, if you deconstruct the LG prank, it´s pretty sinister convincing someone that the world is going to end !? no?
This is all great news for brands looking for a content formula, but why is it connecting with people ?
As mentioned earlier, the prank has been around for a long time but in this digital world i am notified by YouTube video recommendations almost on daily basis to check out a new prank. It´s all very well people creating the content, but it´s the volumes of people watching the content online that is interesting.
People are spending more time than ever-living their life through a mediated screen, be that a mobile screen or a fixed screen. The conductors of that life are the social platforms that we live our virtual life through, and real connections with people are becoming ever more distant, virtual. Every time we open up Facebook, Instagram or Twitter we´re watching another person live their life without any physical / any real emotional connection. The ´we´ is most certainly the millennial, and it´s the millennial that lives in this harsh new world of yo-yo ing in & out of the real & mediated world. If the LG ´World Ending prank´ is anything to go by, maybe we do have genuine evidence to support a theory that pranks are fulfilling the void created by the desensitised human to human conditions we live in.
The very nature of a prank puts the mediation in the hands of the viewer. With prank content, we are in control of the situation, we know something the victims don´t know, and that makes us feel good. It´s those feel good moments that leaves us wanting more, and prompting brands to jump onto this formula. It´s not far off from being similar to a video game, with some attributed similar to that of the hugely successful horror movie Saw.
Plenty has been written on the potentially sinister outcomes of such conditions (Orwell springs to mind), and subsequent behaviours, but for now let´s enjoy it for what it is, whilst keeping a an eye on the why?
Take a second to vote below as genuinely interested to see what your perspective is