April 1st is a busy day for press releases. “News items” embargoed for Apr. 1 jam reporters’ inboxes and, of course, they’re mostly pranks. It is April Fool’s Day, after all.
The practice of issuing bogus press releases on Apr. 1 is so widespread that PR Newswire is refusing to push distribute them.
“Each year, numerous ‘prank’ press releases are submitted,” the company said in a blog post
. “And each year, after enjoying a laugh while reading them (some are really funny!) we have to say no to sending them out over the wire.
“The fact is, the repercussions of distributing a false news announcement are far reaching and lasting, and can ultimately tarnish a public relations pro’s relationships with journalists and bloggers, and negatively impact brand reputations.”
Despite PR Newswire’s decision, a number of brands will likely attempt hoaxes. In honor of their attempts, here are five famous April Fool’s Day pranks from brands:
Burger King unveils a Left-Handed Whopper.
An ad appeared in USA Today
on Apr. 1, 1998, announcing Burger King’s latest creation, the Left-Handed Whopper. A press release
said the burger will contain the same ingredients, but that it was redesigned to “fit more comfortably in the left hand.”
“This will result in fewer condiment 'spills' for left-handed hamburger lovers,” the press release said. “The new Left-Handed Whopper will have all the condiments rotated 180 degrees, thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of them skew to the left.”
Lefties lined up for the new sandwich, as did righties who wanted to ensure they didn’t get the wrong Whopper. However, as Time magazine put it
, “The thought that a burger is basically, you know, a circle apparently never crossed their minds.”
On Apr. 2, Burger King issued a press release indicating the new sandwich is a hoax.
Google renames itself Topeka.
Tech companies love April Fool’s Day, none more than Google. From scratch-and-sniff book
archiving to Google Chrome in 3D
, the company has a long history (relatively speaking, of course) of pulling pranks.
Among its more April Fool's gags occurred in 2010, when the company renamed the site Topeka. What made this prank unlike many of its others is that this hoax was rooted in an actual news story. In March, the mayor of Topeka, Kan., announced plans to unofficially rename the city “Google”
to entice the search giant to select the community for its “Fiber for Communities” program.
On Apr. 1, Google CEO Eric Schmidt issued a press release
indicating the company would change its name to Topeka. He wrote:
“We didn’t reach this decision lightly; after all, we had a fair amount of brand equity tied up in our old name. But the more we surfed around (the former) Topeka’s municipal website, the more kinship we felt with this fine city at the edge of the Great Plains.
“In fact, Topeka Google Mayor Bill Bunten expressed it best: “Don’t be fooled. Even Google recognizes that all roads lead to Kansas, not just yellow brick ones.”
The site returned to normal on Apr. 2, but not before sparking a slew of headlines—not to mention loads of publicity for its “Fiber for Communities” program.
Hulu unveils a redesign, and it looks very ‘90s.
Not to be outdone by its tech rivals, streaming video service Hulu.com made a splash on Apr. 1, 2011, by redesigning its website to look like a Geocities site from the 1990s. The Wrap
described the site’s “grainy images, simple fonts and a slate of shows including ‘The X-Files,’ ‘News Radio’ and ‘Sliders.’”
The Wrap continued:
“Classics, all. And, yes, users did get that modem noise when they selected one of the episodes.
“Other features included a guest book and hit counter set at an impressive ‘00000000000000054.’ A helpful note said the site was ‘Best Viewed in Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer at 1024x768.’”
Media outlets praised the move, with The Atlantic
calling it “amazing
Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell and sparks national outrage.
The Taco Liberty Bell prank stands as perhaps the greatest April Fool’s Day joke from a brand, because the public not only fell for it, but also grew enraged by the gag.
On Apr. 1, 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in six major daily newspapers—among them The Philadelphia Inquirer
—indicating it had bought the Liberty Bell to help ease the national debt.
The ad said:
“It will now be called the ‘Taco Liberty Bell’ and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country's debt.”
A follow-up press release said the Taco Liberty Bell would divide its time between Philadelphia and the company’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif. It also boasted: “Now we've got the crown jewel of bells.”
The response was overwhelming. Confused and upset citizens—as well as members of Congress—flooded the Park Service with phone calls. That morning, the Park Service in Philadelphia called a press conference denying the purchase.
Taco Bell issued a second press release at noon copping to the gag and calling it the “Best Joke of the Day.” A number of people—from citizens to members of the media—weren’t amused, and Taco Bell took a couple of lumps for it. A spokesperson for the company defended the joke, explaining:
“For those who didn't get the joke and care about the bell, just think about how much more recognition we've given it in this one day. There's been a terrific response among people I talked to, and some of them even said, 'Hey, thanks for making me aware of how we need to take care of our monuments.'”
Taco Bell donated $50,000 to the upkeep of the Liberty Bell—and entered the April Fool’s Day Hall of Fame.
(via Museum of Hoaxes
NPR reports on new teenager craze of brand tattoos.
Journalists are known for pulling off April Fool’s Day jokes: Sports Illustrated
made the pranksters Hall of Fame for its report on Sidd Finch
—written by George Plimpton—who could throw a fastball at 168 mph. The BBC is another frequent fooler, as are smaller media outlets.
This year, a rural Wisconsin newspaper published a fake report
about the Department of Natural Resources's plans to sell a state trail to Disney.
NPR is no slouch when it comes to hoaxes. On Apr. 1, 1994, the radio program “All Things Considered” reported on companies such as Pepsi paying teenagers to tattoo corporate logos on their ears
. In exchange for the branding, the teens received a 10 percent discount on the product for life.
Some teens reportedly called NPR hoping to cash in on the branding deal.