Case Study: Adobe’s Photoshop Live Street Retouch Prank

Every year Adobe organises an event called ‘Creative Days’ to promote its creativity-enabling products such as Photoshop. The online event 2013 hosted some of the most inspiring speakers from the creative circle including Malik Bendjelloul, director of Searching for Sugarman, National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen, creative technologist Ellen Sundh, fashion designer Henrik Vibskov and Adobe evangelists Paul Trani & Jason Levine. Adobe partnered with the agency Abby Norm and created a truly unique experiential activity in Sweden to promote the online event.



The agency Abby Norm was handed a task to promote Adobe’s Creative Days with the goal to showcase Adobe products’ full creative potential. This was always intended to be a B2B campaign with a touch of consumer awareness mixed into it.

Andreas Morne, CEO of Abby Norm, describes the brief: “We had to attract creative interest’ as much as possible and get people to view the event online while streaming. Make a creative event invitation. Usually Adobe sends out emails and does other traditional marketing, such as e-mail marketing. They told us: if you manage to do an integrated B2B and B2C campaign we’ll be very happy. But it wasn’t the initial goal for us. In the beginning it was B2B, but it turned out to be a good B2C campaign as well.”




The campaign replaced traditional newsletters and posters with something much more innovative. People waiting at a bus stop were filmed with a hidden camera from a car across the street. A real Photoshop magician Erik Johansson used custom-built software and LCD screens built into the bus stop to amuse commuters by photoshopping their images ‘in real time’ and filming their reactions. Johansson turned unsuspecting people into funny ad posters inside the bus stop. Complete strangers were paired as a kissing couple on top of a wedding cake, a man was transformed into a genie in a bottle and one poor guy ended up as a monster. Luckily, the Swedes were cool with the joke (!). The reactions were combined and edited into a viral video, which was released on Adobe Nordics YouTube channel.

Andreas Morne, CEO of Abby Norm, on the reactions: “We were at the bus stop for one full day. We came across more people then we actually filmed and only one of them wasn’t pleased with what we were doing. After we pranked people, we approached them and explained what and why we did it. Everyone (except one) thought that it was a nice idea and gave permission to use their faces in the video.”


The agency concentrated on creating the video. Therefore, the remaining small media budget was used to seed the video through relevant bloggers. They hoped to make the video viral in the Nordic region (as far as was possible). The outcome was completely unexpected.



In 3 days, over 11 million people saw the video. Today, the viral has reached over 20 million views. It was shared over 700,000 times on Facebook. Media all over the world covered the prank, making it number 1 on Ad Age’s Viral Video Chart. In fact, the free PR added up to an estimated 12 million euros. The event itself attracted 73,538 visitors online, which was 638% of the original target! So in the end, a simple B2B initiative grew into a B2C campaign and worked wonders for Adobe’s image.

The agency wasn’t prepared for the results. Andreas Morne, CEO of Abby Norm, explains what they would have done differently: “We would have coordinated the PR initiatives more globally. We were hoping to generate a couple of hundred thousand views in the Nordic region. We didn’t have a clue that in three days we’d have 11 million views from around the world. Had we known, we would have done more global PR to push it even further.”




This experiential event proved that the lines between different marketing categories are becoming blurred. The B2B category is usually quite ‘straight’ and generally not very up for innovation/quirkiness. In this case, Adobe gave the agency a chance to do something different.

Andreas Morne, CEO of Abby Norm, shares his lessons: “What we have shown is that B2B advertising doesn’t have to be conventional and follow the same traditional creative roots. In B2B advertising you often get told that you can’t do certain things. Especially not integrated B2B and B2C because the communication is totally different. We don’t think so. You don’t have to follow the book: it doesn’t have to be a poster or email invitation. In the end we are all people, not business machines.”





“The Epica jurors felt that this was a good example of a potentially dull B-to-B brand emerging from the shadows into bright sunlight with humour and a bit of provocation. Most people are vaguely aware of retouching and how it can alter reality, but this operation demonstrated its effects in a simple, cheeky and yet somehow innocent way. And of course it’s another example of the way a one-off stunt has a far longer and wider impact on YouTube and social media.”

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