There’s nothing like a good PR hoax to showcase the rewards and potential pitfalls involved in launching a new product. After all, if you can generate considerable buzz with a fake, imagine what you can do with the real thing. And last week’s prank, from a faux app start-up called LIVR, was pitch perfect.
Foisted on an overeager and unsuspecting SXSW media, LIVR purported to be a social network one could only join when drunk, accessed via a phone attachment – a “biometric bouncer” – that measured one’s blood alcohol content. The higher one’s BAC, the more features available. If sufficiently tanked, users could “Drunk Dial™” another user at random (trademark designation a nice touch) or play “Truth or Dare,” along with more conventional features like finding nearby hot bars or those with drink specials. A morning-after “Blackout” button promised to erase all incriminating evidence of judgment-impaired behavior, including photos and calls.
The elaborate ruse featured cold-calls to reporters and a website and video with actors posing convincingly as CEO and chief developer. A number of news outlets were duped, including this one. Hoodwinking the media and holding up a mirror to the overhyped, self-involved world of tech start-ups was the point of the gag, the prankster-in-chief said later, coming clean after a few media outlets did some
digging basic reporting. A resounding success.
THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) to LIVR’s pranksters, for an object lesson in how to generate buzz – and screen fakes.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Know your advantage and when to exercise it. Exceedingly well planned and executed, the LIVR gag succeeded also on timing and placement. The perpetrators sprang their ruse at the start of tech-heavy event thick with story-chasing media. Their premise was entirely plausible given the anything-goes world of start-ups. They knew exactly what to sell and how to sell it. If their comedy careers don’t pan out, they have bright futures in marketing.