Nothing new here: Thoughts on LG’s end-of-the-world prankvertisement…

September 9, 2013

There’s some controversy over this so-called bit of “prankvertising” LG did on behalf of its high-definition television. Maybe you’ve seen it? A handful of people interviewing for a fake job are scared shitless by what appears to be the beginning of World War III.

A case can be made the unwitting interviewees are innocent victims of unnecessary cruelty. They appear genuinely scared when the fake bombs start falling. And they appear genuinely pissed off when the joke is revealed to them, especially considering they are, in fact, its punch line. Hell, I’d be pissed too. Though maybe more for having gone to a fake job interview than for being frightened by a malicious advertiser.

Bottom line the questionable taste of the prank and its subsequent controversy are all part of the campaign. If people weren’t scared and if the media wasn’t critical then the campaign would be a failure.

Therefore, like it or not, it is not a failure. My guess is LG will get sufficient lifespan and social currency out of this “work” to consider the piece a moderate to major success. Last I checked, the video had over 4 million views…

So, is it evil? Or is it genius? Or is it a combination of the two: evil genius?

One thing it is not is original. Pranking people is a tradition dating back a lot farther (or is it further?) than social media. Back in the early days of TV, Candid Camera was a most popular show that made fun of unsuspecting people on hidden camera to the delight of millions. The show ran forever. As far as I know it was seldom criticized for hurting people. It was, as they used to say, all in good fun. Granted, I doubt Candid Camera did many episodes depicting the end of the world; that said humiliating people for entertainment was its purpose.


More recently the found footage genre (pioneered by The Blair Witch Project and insidiously perfected with Catfish) has heralded in new levels of embarrassment and fear. I’ve said this before: awkward moments are no longer avoided. They are entertainment. From Candid Camera to Courting Controversy!

I don’t like this content on Facebook or follow it on Twitter but I do share it as a fact of our existence. I recognize that to be contemporary in marketing one has to at least be able to speak to it. To turn away from courting controversy entirely is to excuse one’s self from the modern world. And as I’ve said before, more than anything else irrelevancy is a death sentence to creative professionals.

So, while I find the video unsettling and frankly unoriginal I did find it. In this age of massive distractions that is saying something.

Final note on the topic of originality: For a long time, Memorex (remember them?) ran a famous ad campaign working essentially the same conceit as LG’s. Their line: Is it Live or is it Memorex? Both LG and Memorex campaigns are examples of the oldest form of product advertising on earth: the product demo. So word to the under-30 set, who think this shit is fresh. It ain’t.


7 Responses to “Nothing new here: Thoughts on LG’s end-of-the-world prankvertisement…”

  1. Can it be both? To many it was entertaining and hammered the message home that the TV is so realistic it will fool the viewer. The prank was interesting to watch and was passed around and written about, so it was a success for LG.

    However, on the flip side, it’s mean spirited. And I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be the one being pranked.

    Sadly, our society is all about watching other people’s pain and awkwardness (ie. reality television) and thus this kind of thing is OK.

  2. Joe Glennon said

    Also, is it really a prank if both sides are in-the-know? I have a very hard time believing that the interviewees were not in on the gag, even if they didn’t know the full extent of the prank. Cameras, lights, microphones, etc. Even with spycam stuff, there’s got to be evidence. But I agree, no matter what, it’s a demo. Everything old is new again.

    • I agree with you. I was wondering about the legitimacy of this advertising using this footage while I was reading this article, and if I were any of those who were really pissed off during the fake interview, I would definitely not allow them to put my “scared the s*** out me” image in a video with viral potential like this.

      Two possibilities, one, these are just actors; and two, these people are somehow “bribed” by the advertiser so that they could authorize the advertisers to use their images.

      Correct me if I am wrong, because I couldn’t understand this level of spanish.

  3. tonkaboytx said

    Reblogged this on tonkaboytx and commented:

  4. […] sure got my attention if I thought World War III was coming and possibly my life would end in this LG Commercial. Personally having a TV scare me practically shitless would most definitely convince me of their […]

  5. Jeff Green said

    It isn’t WWII, it’s an asteroid strike (fiery mass, no mushroom cloud, etc). I guess it’s not as clear a picture as they would like…

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