On April 1st a few years ago, I skillfully convinced a friend that she’d been selected to audition for Dancing with the Stars. I drafted a fake email chain that included the date, time and location of her audition along with contact info for the show’s producer. Never mind the fact that she hadn’t even applied for the show, my friend bought it. I had “gotten” the friend who repeatedly boasts that she is 100% un-gettable on April Fool’s Day, and I gloated.
While my pranking was just for fun, you can use April Fool’s Day for some do-gooder attention grabbing. Below are five April Fool’s Day tricks to inspire some creative thinking. So leap into some fool’s paradise imagination and remember: you’ve got just 364 days and counting to plan your April Fool’s Day campaign!
1. Creative Collaboration
In 1997, forty-six comic strip artists came together to pull off what became known as The Great Comics Switcheroonie. The brain child of Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott of Baby Blues, each artist agreed to pen another’s characters for the day, all unbeknownst to the various newspaper editors. This narrative cross-pollination saw Garfield stealing one of Dagwood Bumstead’s famous sandwiches, Family Circus‘ little Billy visiting Dilbert in his cubicle and Edgar from For Better of for Worse hanging out with Mother Goose and Grimm, along with a whole bunch others. According to Kirkman and Scott: “The results were funny, readers got an unexpected treat, and the comics got a little publicity for a change. All in all, not a bad outcome.”
2. Suggestive Power
On April 1, 1965, the BBC show Panorama is reported to have conducted a trial of a “smell-o-vison” across the airwaves. The technology – you guessed it – would enable viewers to experience scents as if coming straight from their favorite shows. During the bewitching hour, the host cut pungent onions and brewed strong coffee on camera, all the while suggesting that the viewers at home could expect to smell what he was concocting. While this was just an April Fool’s joke, a number of viewers called into the show to report they indeed experienced these scents just as the host had promised. Score one for perception, zero for reality.
3. Creative Misinformation
In late March of 2000, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) distributed a press release announcing that it planned to dump fish sedatives into Texas’ Lake Palestine just before an upcoming Bass fishing tournament was scheduled for April 1st. “This year,” the release promised, “the fish will be napping, not nibbling.” While the release quoted sources likes of April Phule and Jo Kizonu, several newspapers thought the release was real and ran stories about the action. In response, state officials, who also didn’t get the joke, posted rangers at the lake to make sure the fish weren’t drowsed. Eventually PETA admitted that it had been joking, but not before bringing a lot of attention to their cause.
4. Crowd Funning
On March 31, 1864, the English newspaper the Evening Star announced that a large group of donkeys would be on display the next day at Islington’s Agricultural Hall. The next morning, a crowd gathered, and while its not clear how long they waited without seeing one single equine creature, eventually they realized that they themselves were the donkeys.
5. Sure Betting
Our last bit of April Foolery comes to us from Google, exactly ten years ago today. On April 1, 2004, Google announced that it planned to test a new platform with a small number of email aficionados. The product? Gmail. It seems that a loyal user had written to Google, pleading for a new email program that would be user-friendly and especially adept at sorting, filing and finding emails. “With luck,” stated the press release announcing the launch, “Gmail will prove popular to them – and to the original user who sparked the idea.”
Initially, the launch was met with skepticism because of the chosen release date of April 1st, but clearly it didn’t take long for people to realize that Google wasn’t kidding around. Releasing gmail to the world on April 1st certainly was a gamble, but in this case, it paid off.
For more inspiration, check out the April Fool’s Day Archive at The Museum of Hoaxes.
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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Claudette Silver is a LightBox collaborator busy pranking her friends today and wants to know your ideas for creative April Fool’s Day campaigning.