The dramatic increase of online shopping has fanned the flames of competition between shipping companies. Which is why, using thermal-activated ink, DHL figured the best way to advertise just how fast and efficient its shipping services are was to trick its competitors into doing it for them.

The prank was simple and brilliant. DHL hired companies like UPS and TNT to deliver large black boxes to addresses that were particularly difficult to find. But the boxes weren't actually black. Instead, they were covered with a temperature-activated ink that appeared black when the boxes were chilled to sub-zero temperatures at the time of pickup. But as they warmed up in the back of delivery trucks, the black ink faded revealing a large message on the side of the boxes boasting that "DHL is faster."

The deliverymen had no choice but to deliver the trojan packages, which were big enough to be incredibly awkward and extremely noticeable by anyone nearby. Well played, DHL. Well played.

Update: According to the folks at RightThisMinute, it turns out that while the prank was real (no actors were used, those are actual UPS and TNT couriers) DHL had nothing to do with it. Instead, it was the result of an internal creative competition held by a German ad agency called Jung von Matt.

We reached out to Deutsche Post DHL directly for comment, and the company's media relations confirmed this wasn't its doing. (Although it's not unhappy about the prank.)

Thank you for asking. It's correct, that the video concerned was made as a result of an internal creative competition of the advertising agency Jung von Matt which is well known at least in Germany. We've known about the intention of JvM to position it on Youtube but it was their idea to use an example related to our industry and they haven't made that on behalf of DHL. Nevertheless, we are not angry about it :-)

[YouTube via Tastefully Offensive]