Country Buck$ S1

Robo Buck Prank :: Case Study

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A&E knows a thing or two about original storytelling, as the hit reality series Duck Dynasty can attest. But the network wasn’t going to rest on its laurels with shots in the dark as it prepared to launch an all-new reality series, Country Buck$.


Rather than talk a big game with scripted content, AvatarLabs saw an opportunity for a winning unscripted prank-style video. Appearing in the pilot, Wildgame Innovations’ robotic deer resonated as fodder for endless comedy. After undergoing a rigorous creative process, the vision was clear: hire a comedian and an engineer to voice and operate a mechanical deer in the middle of an outdoor apparel shop, and capture the reactions of patrons as the deer photobombs them with outlandish unscripted gestures and one-liners.

Pulling off such a rustic ruse would require an authentic setting, talented improv actors and a wide demographic of unassuming victims. AvatarLabs scouted a number of locations before securing a Bass Pro Shop in Rancho Cucamonga, which attracted the perfect mix of clientele, from Japanese tourists to sleeveless gun-toting hunters.

The team hired a local actor to hook patrons in for the holiday photo shoot. His story? He’s shooting Wildlife Innovations Action Camera demos with custom backdrops to showcase the product’s wide range of uses. Patrons would assemble before a backdrop resembling a snowy forest, a wooded landscape, a lodge or a blue sky. Meanwhile, a southern-tongued improv comedian, Austin Horton, and mechanical engineer would work in tandem hidden fifteen feet away to bring the “Robo Buck” to life, commenting on the weather, social media, pop culture or the patrons’ themselves.


To hit the bulls eye of authenticity, it was essential that the team capture public reactions as candidly as possible. So AvatarLabs blanketed the Bass Pro Shop with hidden cameras to capture reaction coverage from multiple angles. These cameras delivered a slightly lo-fi, “security cam” aesthetic, embodying a veneer of authenticity to heighten the piece’s viral appeal. The team shot over two days. Despite near 100-degree temperatures that tested the structural integrity of the deer’s mechanics, Robo Buck persevered.

Although the prank was unscripted, AvatarLabs and A&E agreed upon guidelines to anchor the shoot. From there, the talent did what they do best, from subtle body language the perfectly timed one-liners. The deer’s head motions elicited a double take from most patrons, while his impromptu sneezes and bodily functions generated priceless grimaces among school children – the perfect holiday Kodak moment. Even the most authentic outdoorsman blushed when the deer suggested his left side was better than his right or challenged him to strike a manly pose.

The reaction coverage was priceless, and quite a bit of magic happened in the editing booth. A simple animation and branded end card kept messaging on point and prompted viewers to click to learn more about the program and tune into the premiere.


A&E posted the video on the show’s Facebook and YouTube pages on November 13, 2014. Within a few days, the video earned almost 2.5 million views across both platforms. Just as important, Facebook users had engaged with the piece to the tune of 32,000 shares and 5,800 likes, leaving enthusiastic comments along the way: “their faces though!”; “Lmfao”; “this is freaking priceless!”; “The little girl!”; “My peeps are gonna be so psyched about this!”; “watch this!”

The piece drew such impressive engagement on both Facebook and YouTube in the first few days that A&E increased its ad spend on both platforms. Most importantly, the show was a tremendous success and has been renewed for a second season.