Defy Media’s Barry Blumberg on the Multi-Level Success of ‘Prank It FWD’

/ Dec 15, 2014


Prank It FWD” has quickly become one of Defy Media’s tentpole projects. The prank series, launched earlier in 2014 to coincide with April Fool’s Day, focuses on positive pranks to help deserving people in need. To date, across two installments, the series has grabbed more than 45 million views, according to Barry Blumberg, head of content for Defy Media.

It’s success is self-evident; “Prank It FWD” not only features some of the top talent and channels in the Defy Media network — Smosh, Smosh Games, Greg Benson, and Screen Junkies, just to name a few — it’s also content that is immensely shareable. For instance, the second installment of the series, which debuted in mid-November, gave away a house.

To talk about the project’s success, and provide more insight on how it all comes together, as well as where it might go, VideoInk sat down with Blumberg for a quick chat. Here is what he had to say:

What was the inspiration behind launching this campaign?

We spend a lot of time doing pranks. We are not without conscience. It occurred to us, that it might be great to turn some of these pranks around and have positive outcomes. We were inspired by things like Bat Kid, or the WestJet thing that was done a year ago… What a great opportunity to take some of our people who are really good at this and create some big ideas and execute against them with positive outcomes.

This is one of those things — for me personally and for us as a company — when we get to the end of it, we can feel really good about the work we are doing. Sometimes, when you are in business of making hundreds of videos a week, you don’t necessarily get that kind of feeling.

How has the campaign performed so far?

We’ve done somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 million views across the two executions. One of our biggest performers has been the first centerpiece prank, which was called “Best Shift Ever.”

How do you choose which creators to work with as part of the campaign?

Larger executions start with an idea. Then we go and think about the components that are involved. We usually go through a very exhaustive casting process, not just for individuals, but also for locations and setups, as well as accomplices that will help us execute without the mark having any idea that this is coming.

In the case of “She’s Got It Maid,” we were pretty committed to giving away a house. First, we had to find a house that we could give way. It was also important for us to set it up so that the person did not have a tax liability associated with the gift.

As for talent, we partner with some of our top talent. But we also go out to other people who are capable of producing these things. We do not want to have the full burden of production on our organization when we are doing 10 or 20 videos over two-week cycles. So we go to our network, and then cast a broader net across the YouTube prank space to see if there are any big names who have an idea that they want to come in and do. We pay for that production and help facilitate if needed.

The partnership with Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, which was integrated into the “She’s Got It Maid” prank… How did it come together?

It comes from our ad sales group. We go out with our tentpoles and talk to various advertisers. For this particular prank, Barefoot Wine wanted to come in and support the whole program, but integrate specifically into the “She’s Got It Maid” video. The great thing about them was that they got a lot of coverage and impressions, but were also a fantastic partner in that they weren’t over-reaching for their presence in the video. They allowed it to be what it was going to be, and integrated at the end with a toast.

What’s the plan for the series going forward?

We don’t want to oversaturate the market. We think twice a year is exactly the right amount. There is a natural timing that comes around the holidays and April Fool’s Day. I think we’re going to stick with that.

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