It seems that the world has no idea how April Fools’ Day started. No joke. Many of us partake in holidays that we may not know the meaning behind, but as a culture we support the cause and follow tradition. While there is a variety of speculation tied to April Fools’ Day, History.com says English pranksters began popularizing the annual tradition in 1700 by playing practical jokes on each other.
Over time, the tradition has been carried into modern times. Whether it’s a practical joke on a teacher, changing your family’s clocks or hoaxing an entire city, April Fools’ Day lives on. Today, it seems like every single brand goes in on the trickery. Whether it’s through TV, social media, advertising, or even a stunt, they capitalize on the opportunity as it’s a chance to evoke humor while promoting their brand in an unconventional way. As we near this year’s holiday, I revisited three of the most epic April Fools’ Day moments in history and compare them to today’s world.
1698: Let’s Wash Some Lions
National Geographic notes that the earliest April Fools’ Day hoax on record was in 1698 when Londoners were advised to go see an annual washing of the lion’s ceremony at the Tower of London. Hundreds showed up. And, as you’ve likely predicted, there were no lions. The street prank worked so well that it continued year after year.
1957: Spaghetti on Trees
Another British hoax! Have you ever thought that spaghetti could grow on trees? In 1957, BBC properly fooled the English with a 2+ minute television broadcast segment about the “great spaghetti harvest,” which showed girls pulling pasta off tree branches and placing it into baskets. Not only did BBC do the pre-work to place spaghetti on trees, the trees were in Switzerland. They literally produced an entire segment in another country to keep the joke on the down-low. Talk about going to great lengths for the ultimate prank. Per the Huffington Post, the broadcasters confessed to the prank at the end of the segment. Although, an influx of calls continued to roll in and the jokes didn’t stop there. Operators responded to every call with “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
1996: The “Taco Liberty Bell”
Let freedom ring. Let your chalupa sing. The epic April Fools’ Day joke from Taco Bell goes down as one of the most legendary pranks in history. On the 1st, the fast-food chain claimed to have purchased the Liberty Bell to “reduce the country’s debt.” According to Time Magazine, Taco Bell placed a full-page ad in six major newspapers to introduce the newly named “Taco Liberty Bell.” Insert. Freak out. The National Park Service in Philadelphia, as well as Taco Bell headquarters, was flooded with complaints.
In the 2010’s, we’ve seen brands leverage social media as a primary way to fool audiences. Even tech companies like Google and entertainment channels such as Netflix get in on the action by tricking users.
As we near April Fools’ Day 2017, we’ll see what witty campaigns succeed and fail. One thing to note is that it does seem to be more challenging to pull off a campaign tied to April Fools’ Day. Consumers are in the know now more than ever – consumed by media – aware of it all! In my eyes, it’s harder to trick us!
Let’s see who will pull it off this year.
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