How Vitaminwater Tricked a Bunch of Bored Subway Riders and Art Lovers

'Make boring brilliant' stunts drive video views

Vitaminwater has found the perfect types of people to associate with its brand: annoying subway braggarts and jerks who deface art.

Ok, that’s perhaps an exaggeration. But the brand has hooked up with CollegeHumor on a clever series of prank video that make innocent bystanders think they’re dealing with some real-life weirdos. These branded entertainment clips are all part of the Vitaminwater campaign #makeboringbrilliant.

Take Panhandler Pranks Entire Subway. During the clip, a subway passenger starts what appears to be a long sob story aimed at getting people to hand over money (something many New Yorkers would be familiar with). But rather than relay a sad tale of lost employment and life on the streets, the passenger actually goes into a long-winded boast about how well his life is going, to the surprise of the other riders. “I used to live in a two-bedroom apartment in a great neighborhood, until my family was forced to move, because we wanted more space. We recently bought a house in the suburbs with a pool and a yard …”

Or: “I used to have a great job at a financial institution. Now, I have an even better job at that same financial institution.”

According to CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen, the prank was shot three different times in Philadelphia with about 30 to 40 riders observing each speech. "It was 100 percent real," he said. “The idea was that people are always pretty bored on subways—heads down playing games on their phones or staring off into space—and we thought it would be fun to find a spin on it that could make that experience more exciting.

"We see solicitors on the train all the time, and thought, what if it turned out that this one wasn't begging at all, but instead was bragging about how awesome his life was. Then we built on that."

As of Friday evening, the clip has been viewed 2.3 million times. 

The subway prank is actually the second of four branded videos Vitaminwater commissioned. The first, posted in July, featured a GPS taxi prank that has generated 2.8 million views. Last week, CollegeHumor posted Entire Art Gallery Gets Pranked, featuring a guy at Brooklyn art opening who starts painting on an artist’s work, to the shock and disgust of the show’s guests. He even begins eating one of the gallery’s "pieces," a statue of a hand holding a sandwich.

Funny, yes. But what do these stunts have to do with Vitaminwater exactly? Isn’t the idea of branded entertainment to show people using your product in an "authentic" way?

It's all about boredom, actually. "Despite having more ways than ever to entertain themselves, people are somehow more bored than ever before," said Ryan Robertson, Vitaminwater's senior brand manager. "In fact, in just one week we found close to 5 million tweets that used hashtags related to 'boring.' So this year, we’ve been calling on people to tells us what’s boring them so we can help make their boredom brilliant. CollegeHumor’s idea for this video fit our campaign perfectly … in addition to being highly entertaining content, what better way to make a boring commute more brilliant than sharing a few laughs and high fives?"

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