Want to launch your personal brand? Trying to win the Late Night wars? Looking to make the leap from Daily Currant writer to big time Huffington Post interviewee? Today, there's no better way to make a splash than a viral prank. From wolves in Sochi to Diane in 7A, any compelling enough lie can be dredged up by the Buzzfeed/Gawker/HuffPo dragnet and drop you, gasping and flopping, on the viscera-strewn deck of true human achievement. Here's 6 free ideas of how you could fool and delight the world for your own gain.
Dads have had their day. Beneath the veneer of the recent viral infatuation with cool dads who build "insane" Adventure Time-themed playplaces and hand-write heartswellingly sex-positive letters to the secret boyfriends of their teenage sons is a desire as ancient as Greek myth to see Dad brought low. Couple that with the gut-wrenching pleasure of witnessing public ridicule and the inherent volatility of elementary school drama and you've got a trulybuzzworthy hoax on your hands. Maybe he shows up shirtless and knocks over the entire clarinet section like squealing tenpins. Maybe he throws unsavory heckles at the lady lead and is eviscerated by a suspiciously well-spoken seven-year-old. Either way, someone gets it all on sideways iPhone video, and America's therapists see business drop 15% practically overnight. Toss in some choice quotables ("Daddy wants drama!") and you can pull a pretty penny with "Drama Dad" graphic tees in the sixteen-hour window between blowup and exposure.
With the nostalgia cycle shortening daily, two years is now as long as it takes to age an internet punchline into a blast from the past. If I had to ballpark it, I'd say a verified Joseph Kony account would pull 1.6 million followers in 24 hours, 40% of those before its first post. As @theREALkony2012, you need only tweet a convincing-enough selfie, ideally "with" Dennis Rodman or Lorde or Elton John on a jungle backdrop and the hashtag #kony2014, and then watch the world burn. Getting that little blue check might be the hard part, but pitch it to Twitter, VICE, and, I don't know, Corona as a cobranded marketing stunt, subtly transition JoKo from tweeting Instagrams of cute African children into tweeting about finding his beach, and you've got yourself a verification and an Advertising Age cover story. Get him into a that-just-happened! exchange with @DiGiornoPizza and you've incised a permanent malignant mole onto the ass of the internet.
Between Gravity, misplaced childhood nostalgia for uncomplicated heroism, and Kate Upton's weightless boobs, public fascination with outer space is skyrocketing. We've eaten up videos of astronauts washing themselves and singing Bowie, but there's suspiciously no footage at all of an astronaut reading from the Torah to enter Jewish manhood and a life of Talmud. It's up to you and ideally Alfonso Cuarón to deceive the world into believing they've witnessed the universe's first ever low earth orbit initiation into a life of the 613 commandments of the Pentateuch, complete with mylar tallit, Manischewitz in a pouch, and zero-G choreo for the Cha Cha Slide. For goyim, it makes for a delightful curiosity; for the chosen people, it fulfills the age-old dream of Jews In Space. And even though it's fake, you've given little Joshua a dream to aspire to beyond just second-basing someone on Birthright, and that's a true mitzvah.
The only thing Millenials want to believe more fervently than that they are important and revolutionary is that they are important and revolutionary in ways history has sanctioned as important and revolutionary. Fabricate an national-grade hot button but undivisive incident (gay teacher fired!) in a made-up small town in a convincingly intolerant state (Texas - it's gotta be Texas) and stage a massive protest of young people (free Chipotle). Film a speaker reading a poem that you can flip over and it turns out it's a bird, and let the shares of solidarity flow. Of course, the vast majority of real, notable protests and demonstrations go all but unreported by the media (unless they happen in Russia), but this one is heartwarming! Once it's had its run on Upworthy and EliteDaily, release the extended video, a la Kimmel, where the protest turns into a flash mob to "Timber" for Samsung. Look, they're doing flips because they love touchscreens! It doesn't matter that it was never real, because imagine what kind of change we could bring about if we really did protest like that? I mean, we won't, but still.
Back in 2001, when 'mericans were 'mericans and "viral" meant life-threatening instead of just soul-eroding, this picture began circulating by email (by email!), billed as the National Geographic "picture of the year."
It was photoshopped, of course, but imagine how apeshit we'd go if our collective desire for it to be real brought it into being? With a little digital diddling and finessed framing, it would be simple enough to convince everyone that, right now, in 2014, an American soldier worked with a trained shark (duh we have trained sharks) to bring the internet's primal scene to life, simply out of a pure love for publicity. It's practically the perfect storm: the internet loves sharks, soldiers, man-animal collaboration, and photo recreations, and the American public is desperate to have its faith in fish trainers restored. To be clear: this would be a fake picture claiming to be a real (but fake) version of a fake picture people thought was real. Try explaining that to your grandparents.
Everyone loves a good suicide prank. San Francisco is home to both a massive concentration of Glass-Americans and the Golden Gate Bridge, the CBGB's of suicide spots. It's believable enough that some entrepreneurial soul would want to cinch for himself the dubious honor of being the first person to die in Google Glass, and it's a no-brainer that he would livestream it. That the video itself is a suicide is really just the viral hook, drawing on America's fascination with the tech world's degeneration into self-parody. The footage itself wouldn't be all that different than a GoPro stunt, plenty palatable for endless replay. Release the suicide note/transhuman manifesto once the footage hits Nancy Grace; your unscrupulous desire for publicity dovetails perfectly with the sensationalist media's. And imagine the WIRED thinkpieces! When public suspicion reaches a boiling point, reveal who was really behind the one-way Glass: why, was none other than Red Bull-swilling stuntman Felix Baumgartner! You naive idiots really believed you witnessed another human being take his own life, didn't you? Christ, when will you rubes wise up?
(by Dan Abromowitz)