It’s a date that’s circled in the diaries of PRs across the UK, offering a brilliant opportunity to creative brands who are happy to prank the unsuspecting public. We’re talking – of course – about April Fools’ Day. Pulling some legs on April 1stis an opportunistic business’ way of getting more interest in their brand. It gives an opportunity like no other to show a sense of fun, especially important if they’re trying to change perceptions.
On the big day, online and traditional media are full of funsters trying to make their message heard, and only the very best will cut through all the noise. Just remember to take everything you read with a pinch of salt. We’re still not over the fact that the world’s favourite pizza brand has not actually created an edible pizza box (yes, that’s you Domino’s, not that we’re holding a grudge or anything).
So, with April 1st just around the corner, we thought it best to remind ourselves of some PR pranks that have caused a commotion over the years.
1. Dr Oetker’s Pizza Flavoured Sprinkles
Having been around since 1891, Dr Oetker is a trusted baking brand, with a huge international presence.
Revealed through a quick tweet, pizza sprinkles became the ‘newest addition’ to the Dr Oetker family on April 1st, 2015. A good idea in our opinion, but did it work? The responding tweets claimed to have “almost” been fooled, wishing it was true.
We rate this prank highly for creativity and believability; they’ve even thought of packaging and a legitimate layout for the advertisement. It got conversations on Twitter buzzing, but didn’t quite get as much pickup in the traditional media. However, the Daily Star online did feature it in their roundup of April Fools’ 2015.
2. Rosetta Stone Dog translation – “Rover and Out!
Rosetta Stone sell computer software designed to help users learn any of up to 30 new languages. So, why not add a new one?
In 2015, the Rosetta Stone team tried to convince us that we can now learn how to speak Dog. If given the chance, most dog owners would love to know what their canine friend is thinking, so this idea is a shrewd one- especially when you consider that according to pfma.org.uk, 24% of the households in the UK are home to a pooch. They even went to the extent of creating a video advertisement, with subtitles for what the dogs were saying and referring to themselves as “Rosetta Bone” at the end.
Rosetta Stone has got previous- in 2014, lazy Trekkies across the world rejoiced at the announcement of new software enabling the users to learn Klingon. The video featured Michael Dorn who played Lieutenant Worf for all of you non-Trekkies out there. Seeing as some fans of the show have learned the language without the software’s help, this is very believable if you ask us.
The Star Trek stunt in 2014 was good, but Rosetta Stone really perfected the idea when they convinced the unsuspecting dog-owning public that they’d be able to prattle on to their pooch in its own ‘language’. Their video got thousands of hits on YouTube, and was featured on April Fools’ roundups across the web. Never forget, pets own the internet.
3. Marmite Clear: did you see through this one?
According to a psychologist named Professor Daisy Floral-Op, eating dark foods in the morning can cause negative feelings throughout the day. There is no concrete evidence that this is true; while it’s well documented that the type of food you eat may affect your mood, the colour… not so much. However this lie provides justification for the supposed creation of Marmite Clear, a product that’s been ‘in progress’ for 15 years, apparently.
Marmite Clear appeals to those who are fed up of the haters dissing the smell/ taste of the love-it-or-hate-it savoury spread. A quick tweet, and a press release posted on the Marmite website, and a prank was born.
It’s clear to see that Marmite pulled this one off, for a while anyway. They even enlisted the help of an oddly named ‘expert’ to help push their story, though if you hadn’t figured it out already, she doesn’t actually exist. People on Twitter were planning to put this on a marmite hater’s toast without them noticing or were pleased as it meant no more suspicious stains on their children’s school clothes. This was a fun, audacious prank that actually had some people convinced. Top marks.
4. Netflix Originals ‘Sizzling Bacon’ and ‘Rotisserie Chicken’
On April Fools’ Day in 2014, viewers were treated to a Netflix Original starring bacon. No, not Kevin Bacon, just, uh… bacon. Two films were uploaded, one focusing solely on bacon frying for 20 minutes, the other with a camera trained on a roasting chicken for over an hour. One for the meat-lovers out there.
Plenty of folks actually streamed these movies, some writing humorous reviews. One reviewer, quoted in The Independent, said ‘Suitable for all ages? The main actor is naked the entire film! And we’re not just talking about partial nudity, this is hairless full frontal nudity with bondage! Shame on you, Netflix!’
With Netflix entertaining 75 million members in over 190 countries, these films did not go unnoticed. The prank was a hit, covered by The Independent, Time, Huffington Post, and Mashable. USA Today even posted an article declaring that the firm may have just ‘won’ April Fools’ Day. There’s no denying that this one really resonated with people, and the coverage reflects that. Winner winner chicken dinner.
5. Hailo – Piggybacks over taxi cabs?
Hailo is an app for hailing cabs in over 20 cities, including London, Madrid and Osaka (think Uber, not black cab). They claimed that they had specially trained ‘Piggybackers’ whose benefits over a taxi are that they can dodge traffic and allow the rider to have a 360 view of the city en route.
While the accompanying image is really strong, it’s hard to believe that many people took this too seriously. The Mirroreven ran it in an article about the worst April Fools’ pranks from 2015. Ouch. Nice idea, but needed work if it was going to fool anyone.
6. Mirrorgram – Bathstore’s take on a selfie
Playing on the nation’s love for the selfie, we give you the social media enabled mirror, complete with camera and filter functions. Bathroom specialists Bathstore tweeted a picture of it on April Fools’ Day 2014, and it proved a hit, being featured on the Telegraph, Buzzfeed, MailOnline, and more.
The genius of this prank is that Bathstore has created a product that would undoubtedly sell a lot, and is also pretty believable. We’d be genuinely surprised if this doesn’t exist a decade or two down the line.
Working Word is a PR, digital and brand agency based in Cardiff and London, telling transformative stories for clients all across the UK.