An agency that specializes in branded stunts created seeming mayhem in the streets of New York to promote a free-to-play action video game.
The campaign involved viral marketing shop WhoIsTheBaldGuy arming random Manhattan passersby with a real-life model of a massive firearm from the game WarFrame, warning them not to pull the trigger. Regardless of whether they do, a nearby police car and mailbox are rigged to explode via remote control when the weapon is pointed toward them, leading to shock and confusion from the unsuspecting gun-toter.
Many of the participants exclaim apologies after appearing to blast the vehicle in two as onlookers react with surprise. The gun even has a simulated kickback function timed with the explosions to create an extra dose of authenticity.
Agency founder and director Michael Krivicka said the chaos was actually much more controlled than it might have appeared. New York Police Department officers were on hand to supervise the fake explosions, which were actually just compressed-air mechanics from effects firm A2ZFX. The whole project was the culmination of about three months of work building and testing fake gun prototypes and plotting out effects.
“Everything looks more out of control and dangerous in the video than it was in real life,” Krivicka told Adweek. “I’ve been doing this for a while so I kind of understand the dynamics.”
After organizing many stunts like these, Krivicka said he has developed a certain knack for picking “interesting or memorable” characters to take part in order to make for livelier footage. The on-set crew would reassemble the props and wait about 15 to 20 minutes between shoots for a fresh crowd of sidewalk traffic unfamiliar with the premise.
While Krivicka has performed many of these types of hidden-camera activations, this was his first campaign for a video game company and the first for his new agency, WhoIsTheBaldGuy, which he founded last year after the shuttering of his previous video agency, Thinkmodo.
Though Krivicka said more and more brands are showing interest in the social-media-calibrated, viral-stunt video format, the style still has a certain risk to it that isn’t for every brand. After a number of traditional clients approached him and then balked at pitches involving explosions, nudity or other semi-controversial aspects, he has started to warn them upfront what his services will involve.
“That’s the kind of stuff that works well online—it’s got to have an edge. These days, you’ve got to keep topping yourself,” he said. “You typically have two to three seconds to hook somebody while they’re scrolling through their Facebook timeline. So here it’s something that right away, in two seconds, you’re like, ‘Oh shit, what was that? Let me see the rest of it.’”