Piggybacking on the prevalent prankvertising trend, several charities have released hidden-camera PSAs to bolster support for a variety of social issues. These charities film random people reacting to distressing situations and promote the polished clips online. Video viewers and media outlets eat up these videos, most of which have racked up millions of views on YouTube. Ultimately, this kind of content resonates with viewers because it keeps them wondering: “How would I react?”
This first video comes from SOS Children’s Villages Norway, who sought to raise awareness and funds to help Syrian children in need. “The goal was to touch upon the fear of becoming numb to crises that don’t affect you directly,” SOS rep Synne Rønning told AdFreak.
The charity placed 11-year-old Johannes at a bus stop, in the freezing cold without a jacket. After explaining to commuters that his jacket was stolen on a school fieldtrip, many doffed their own coats and offered them to the boy.
According to Rønning, only three of the 25 or so people who shared the bus stop with him didn’t try to help. The video has earned more than 14.2 million YouTube views.
More often than not, pleas to help the poor are ignored. So The Pilion Trust along with agency Publicis London decided to do the complete opposite—they placed a man on a busy London street with a sandwich board that read, “FUCK THE POOR.” Of course this offended many a passerby. Individuals condemned this man’s message and defended the poor. However, when the agency replaced the first sign with one that read, “HELP THE POOR,” the man was largely ignored.
The video has racked a little more than four million YouTube views to date.
Okay, so people tend to ignore panhandlers, but what about a crying baby? Charity Garage Sale and agency Red Pepper left an abandoned-looking carriage in a public place and rigged it to produce crying baby sounds. Very few people actually stopped to check on the “baby,” but the shocking results of this social experiment earned the charity a good deal of media coverage.
In New York City, it seems as though the homeless have become invisible to passing pedestrians, so New York City Rescue Mission teamed with agency Silver + Partners for a hidden-camera stunt that filmed people as they walked past loved ones dressed to look homeless. Unsurprisingly, no one recognized their family members. The video has more than 4.2 million YouTube views.
Online video viewers love watching hidden-camera stunts—the aforementioned charities have used this to their advantage and have generated significant viewership and awareness as a result.