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war of the worlds
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The most sacred relic: the Holy Foreskin, circa 800 AD
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Guinness Mean Time -- April Fool's Day, 1998

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, meaning that reporters who received the release weren't supposed to write about it until the day it was issued to the public on April 1. However, the Financial Times broke the embargo (not realizing that the release was a joke) and discussed the announcement a day early in an article titled "Guinness to sponsor the Old Royal Observatory." It criticized Guinness for exploiting the millennium excitement to promote its brand name, declaring that Guinness, with its Greenwich tie-in, was setting a "brash tone for the millennium."

When the Financial Times learned it had fallen for a joke, it printed a curt retraction, stating that the news it had disclosed "was apparently intended as part of an April 1 spoof." Guinness spokesman Roy Mantle said, "The best thing to say is that they pipped everybody to the post and we were very pleased to see that actually in such an august organ as the Financial Times." In a separate statement Guinness took a more charitable tone, explaining that "The Financial Times was running a perfectly serious business piece and Guinness faxed over the spoof among other information. It wasn't really his [the reporter's] fault."

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.