Every year, Cards Against Humanity gives away a limited edition "PAX Pack" to attendees at PAX East, making the giveaway as surprisingly awesome as they can. This year, they outdid themselves with an epic prank that involved created an elaborate, fake "extreme oatmeal" brand called "PWNMEAL" (complete with a long-running, perfectly obnoxious marketing campaign), producing three tons' worth of FDA-approved instant oatmeal packs, and hiding the PAX Packs inside these packets and waiting for the attendees to discover the truth.
Max Temkin's lavishly illustrated, gleeful recounting of the prank might just be the most triumphant story of a business doing what is most awesome because doing awesome things is awesome that you will read all year.
There were a few pieces of the oatmeal opening experience that became really important to us.
First, the joke just wouldn’t have been as funny if it was some kind of dumb viral marketing; we wanted to really create confusion as to what exactly PWNMEAL was. My dream to create the illusion of an extreme oatmeal brand so convincingly that people would throw their packets out, and then go digging in the trash for them later when they realized that there were Cards Against Humanity cards inside.
Second, we wanted to heighten the surprise of finding the cards in the oatmeal as much as possible, which meant we had to really sell the idea of an extreme gaming oatmeal. We didn’t want anyone to know that PWNMEAL was associated with Cards Against Humanity until they opened it up.
Third, I wanted the cards to come loose in the oatmeal, covered in oat dust - I didn’t want them in a foil pack or any packaging. It was just funnier that way.
Finally, we had to get these packets into the U.S. with FDA approval, and they had to fit into the convention center’s strict rules that ban giving away food. This was a big design challenge that we solved by shipping empty packets to the U.S. and then filling them with less than once ounce each of good old domestic U.S.A. oatmeal. In total, we ordered three tons of quick rolled oats and created about 150,000 packets of instant oatmeal.