How to F*!k with your friend using WordPress, Facebook ads, and $36.52

Prank Chaz Russo

We all have that one friend. The one who drives a mini-van with a red ball on the antenna and has an unhealthy obsession for shoes. That guy who claims to hate Abercrombie yet manages to fit an article of their clothing into his everyday attire. An individual who keeps a stuffed animal in his desk drawer and talks to it when no one is looking (Ok, that one isn’t exactly true. #alternatefacts).

Well for us, that friend happens to be a designer. A designer with a lackluster appreciation for non-constructive criticism and pranks. So what better way to build our friendship than to incorporate both. And so it began.

Meet, Chaz. Your typical Jersey reject turned closet hipster.

Here’s a photo of him buying diet juice and trying to be cool with the shopping basket.  He’s literally asking to be pranked, right?

All joking aside, he is quite a talented designer and a great friend of ours. He actually illustrated our logo, and has a bunch of great work on his Dribbble profile. [Insert Shameless Chaz Plug Here: @chazrusso]  All of this combined made him the perfect target.

In the midst of our routine of moderately insensitive office pranks, we felt the need to turn the dial up a bit. We wanted to see if we could do something so clever and so technical that our inter-office pranking would never be the same again.  Our plan was to highlight the only thing that Chaz was openly proud of and what he did to make a living.

We set out to create the illusion that a public website was taking his work and showing it off as being the worst design that the internet had to offer.  In reality, the website, subsequent ads, and all of our content was going to be seen by only those that new him best- his friends and colleagues. We’re great friends, we know.

The following case study illustrates how we were able to undermine everything that our friend has worked towards and play our most elaborate joke to date using nothing but programmatic Facebook ads, a WordPress hosted site, and some virality- all for less than $40.

The Setup:

  • (1) Domain – (Has since been taken down)
  • GoDaddy Managed WordPress Hosting
  • (4) Highly Targeted Facebook Ads
  • Timely Organic Social Shares
  • (1) Facebook Page
  • (1) Instagram Account

Step 1: Scheme and Build

We had the idea, now we moved into the planning phase. Here is where we spent the most time. With updates to Facebook and Twitter’s advertising algorithms and targeting options, it was increasingly difficult to target such a micro-audience.

We initially wanted to use Twitter’s custom audiences to target just Chaz, and a handful of close friends who would find it entertaining. The issue arose with the 500 contact minimum for Twitter’s custom audiences. Who has 500 twitter handles laying around? We also had to tread carefully with this as we didn’t want it going too far outside the initial audience scope in order to not hurt his reputation too much (although that still would’ve been hilarious).

Facebook it was.

Step 2: Target an Insanely Small Niche (That Doesn’t Feel Like One)

Prank Chaz Russo Facebook Audience

We found the ideal solution by only targeting people who had their Facebook employment set to our company (roughly 90 people) who were located in the immediate geographic area surrounding our office (down to less than 60, perfect.)

This ironically worked out better than we could’ve planned for. The audience being larger, but containing only close friends enabled this to spread among the ranks much faster than if the audience had been just a few of us. Others’ genuine response to the ads also added to the campaign’s credibility.  We were able to quickly break the “4th wall” and get people in the office to talk about it in conversations that Chaz ultimately overheard.

Step 3: Build Ads with Pictures Snagged During a Publix Run

Prank Chaz Russo Image #4
Prank Chaz Russo Image #3
Prank Chaz Russo Image #2
Prank Chaz Russo Image #1

Building the ads was by far the most entertaining part of the prank.  We often found ourselves trying to stifle laughter as we came up with ideas and the associated imagery. With so much design material that Chaz was creating, it was difficult to select which would work best.  We decided to roll out the ads in phases, starting with more innocuous screen grabs of work that he had either bragged about or showed us in person.  Some time went by and we were worried that he had not noticed the ads.  From there, we decided to elevate things to include actual photos that we took of him so that the ads couldn’t be missed.  Needless to say, we wanted to make sure that he noticed.

How did we draft the copy you ask? We sat in a circle cracking jokes at Chaz’s expense until our laughter turned to tears and there was our copy. Seriously- that was the actual process.  We imagine that’s how most sitcoms are written.

After perfecting the ads for Facebook and Instagram, we set them loose on the world. The traction was immediate!

Step 4: Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy

Prank Chaz Facebook Results

The Results:

Aside from public humiliation, the results speak for themselves. Let’s start with the cost component:

All in, we spent $36.52.

This is inclusive of buying a domain, hosting/creating our website and running 4 Facebook ads.

The Facebook Ads ran for a week, reached 97 People (remember we were targeting less than 60 and this was shared organically to reach the remainder), and was clicked by 28 of them. That is nearly a 29% CTR.

The best part about all of this:  even if he noticed and objected to our prank, there was nothing he could do to stop the ads from running.

Even better was the virality component that we had mentioned. In all honesty, we we tried our best to avoid this so that we didn’t completely damage his freelance work.  The ads were so good that two people felt the urge to share this organically via Twitter increasing organic engagements significantly. Oh well, you can’t stop people from wanting to share what they find entertaining.  All in, our website was visited by 81 unique visitors with 1,296 unique impressions in 4 days time while only targeting 60 people and spending less than $40.

The moral of this story, however, is a strong one. The type you would find in Aesop’s Fables, or at the end of a Disney movie. Don’t ever pass on a quality chance to prank friends.  Or don’t be friends with people who are cyber bullies.  Whichever one.

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