Advertising Themed April Fool's Day Hoaxes
The ABC Cycle.
The German magazine Echo Continental ran a feature about a new "ABC mono-cycle":
The ABC-cycle was given that name by the manufacturer because it is as simple as the ABC and can be operated without prior knowledge by anyone, especially a woman. The vehicle is designed as a mono-cycle, the motor, a directionless three-stroke 2 hp. 1.5 Cylinder "Gnomissima" engine is under the seat and pleasingly warms or cools the driver. A kickstarter and convenient footrests make this motorbike particularly popular with women.
I April Fooled Him Twice.
April Fool ad for Ten High Straight Bourbon Whiskey [Life - Mar 27, 1939]:
"You should have seen his face! 'Gosh, Joe,' he says, 'I sure fell for that one.' He takes it like a man though; so I buy him a drink. 'I want to Double My Enjoyment of this,' I tell the bartender, slipping him a wink. He's wise, and sets us up a couple of drinks of that swell whiskey with No Rough Edges..."
They always grab for a box of Ex-Lax.
"Child psychology!... And who knows better than a youngster what a 'find' Ex-Lax is! Not only because of its good chocolate taste, but for the way it acts! So effective, yet so nice and gentle! Not too strong, not too mild, Ex-Lax is the 'Happy Medium' laxative... the favorite of grown-ups as well as small fry! As a precaution, use only as directed. Economical 10¢ and 25¢ sizes at all druggists."
Kaufmann’s for Everything Out of this World.
Kaufmann's department store in Pittsburgh ran an ad in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette featuring a variety of "out of this world" items for sale in the store, including "zip-on wallpaper" that could easily be zipped on or off, a "mirro dress" with mirrors at the side for a slimming effect, a garden hat with real flowers growing out of it, a sun-tan umbrella with built-in ultraviolet lights, and ceramic paste guaranteed to grow handles on cups overnight.
The Smell of Beef.
An ad in the Chicago Tribune for Carl Buddig Smoked Sliced Beef not only depicted beef, but smelled like it too. This was achieved by mixing "a 12 per cent concentrate of oil of cassia, oil of clove, and maple syrup — ingredients used in the beef curing process" with the printer's ink. Although the ad ran on April 1st, the Tribune insisted there was "No fooling." It was a real smoked beef smell.
The Hoffman York & Compton ad agency released promotional material introducing the Caballo XL, a revolutionary new South American car built around 'five-wheel drive' technology. This involved a "unique shock absorbing system" that would allow drivers to go at speeds in excess of 160 mph over rough, bumpy roads. The small firm later explained it issued the release in order to drum up business from the car industry by showing that it could "play in the big leagues".
The VW Decomposable Roofrack.
Volkswagen ran an ad in the London Times promoting a car featuring a "decomposable roofrack." The tagline read, "It's not an April fool. It's a Volkswagen."
Virgin Atlantic ran an ad noting that the waste gases from champage (CO2 + NO1) recently had been found to have "a detrimental effect on the upper atmosphere and contribute towards the depletion of the ozone layer."
For which reason it had commissioned a special "still champagne" to serve on its flights. It promised that the taste was "distinctively dry with a hint of flint."
National Public Radio's All Things Considered program reported that companies such as Pepsi were sponsoring teenagers to tattoo themselves with corporate logos. In return, the teenagers would receive a lifetime 10% discount on that company's products. Teenagers were said to be responding enthusiastically to the deal.
Guinness Mean Time.
On March 30, Guinness issued a press release announcing it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration. According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, where the Observatory traditionally counted seconds in "pips," it would now count them in "pint drips." Finally, a Guinness bar would open in the astronomy dome and the Observatory's official millennium countdown would feature a Guinness clock counting "pint settling time" with a two-minute stopwatch.
Guinness issued the announcement as an embargoed release,
Esquire introduced its readers to an exciting new company called Freewheelz in an article titled "There Are No Free Wheels." Freewheelz planned to provide drivers with free cars. In exchange, the drivers had to place large advertisements on the outside of their vehicle (such as ads for StayFresh Maxi Pads). Ads would also play constantly on the radio inside the car. Prospective drivers had to go through a screening process, requiring them to submit stool samples and notarized video-store-rental receipts.
The article satirized the much-touted "new economy" created by the internet. Readers who didn't realize this barraged Esquire with phone calls, wanting to know how they could sign up to
Miller Beer announced it had struck an agreement with the town of Marfa, Texas to become the exclusive sponsor of the phenomenon known as the Marfa Mystery Lights. These are spherical lights which appear south of the town each evening, seeming to bounce around in the sky. They're variously rumored to be caused by ghosts, swamp gas, or uranium (though they're probably caused by the headlights from the nearby highway). Miller announced that under the terms of the agreement the Marfa Lights would be renamed the Miller Lites. The local paper, which was in on the joke, printed the news on its front page.
NPR's All Things Considered revealed that a California-based company, LunarCorp, had developed a laser powerful enough to project images on to the surface of the moon. It planned to use this to beam advertisements onto the moon, turning the earth's satellite into a giant billboard.
Hooters Coming Soon.
In a field along route 66 near Glastonbury, Connecticut, a billboard appeared that read: "Coming Soon, Hooters." It bore the owl logo of the franchise, famous for its scantily clad waitresses, as well as a phone number. Local officials soon began receiving calls from residents worried that the down-home, family-friendly feel of the town was going to be ruined by the new franchise. The officials responded that, as far as they knew, Hooters had filed no application with the planning department. The next day the words "April Fools" appeared on the sign, which turned out to be the work of a local prankster, John Tuttle. From the Hartford Courant:
"Tuttle, a town resident and vice president for
Virgin Atlantic announced plans to print ads on butterflies:
"Dr Antonia Monteiro at SUNY Buffalo is developing a genetic modification method that would allow companies to put markings such as logos on butterflies by scanning their wings with a laser beam. Virgin is confident that butterfly advertising will become a successful and popular new medium for airlines… Virgin executives say they hope to launch the butterfly program by the spring, allowing time for final testing and lasering of the Virgin logo on the butterflies."
Russian Standard Vodka ran ads in UK newspapers claiming to have created the world's first "lickvert" — an ad dipped in vodka that could be licked to taste the drink. Readers were urged to "Lick Here," though also reminded to, "Please lick responsibly."
The vodka lickverts were a hoax. But real-life lickable ads had existed in the past. For instance, in 2008 Welch's grape juice ran a lickable ad in People magazine.
NPR's Marketplace reported that advertisers were experimenting with genetically engineering food so that it would display advertisements. For instance, it was possible to engineer burger patties so that as they cooked an image of "Mr. Pickle" appeared on the burger. At 160 degrees Fahrenheit, Mr.Pickle would even start to wave. One ice-cream maker had also created cones with coupons inside the ice cream. The secret coupon code was revealed after you took a bite of the ice cream.
But consumers seemed wary of these food advertisements. One shopper said, "20 percent [off] isn't worth having to stare at ads at dinner."
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.