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If you've been to Starbucks in the past week or so, you've been at risk of finding yourself trapped in a "cheer chain." What this means is that the person in line in front of you pays for your drink, and in return you're supposed to pay for the drink of the person behind you. This goes on and on, ad nauseam. The Associated Press reported on one cheer chain that totaled 1,013 customers.

The question is, are these cheer chains a true spontaneous phenomenon, or are they a cynically created pr stunt? The phenomenon supposedly began when Arthur Rosenfeld offered to pay for the drink of the guy behind him in the drive-thru line who was honking and yelling. Rosenfeld is a tai-chi master, and he wanted to change the man's consciousness through a random act of kindness. The guy who was honking decided to pay for the car behind him, etc. etc.

But I'm in the camp of those who, like consumerist.com, believe they're a pr stunt. Consumerist points out that Starbucks is even issuing coupons to encourage the cheer chain movement, plus they've set up a website about it. (Thanks, Bob)

Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by Alex on Sun Dec 23, 2007
Comments (16)
Here's another case of a misleading claim in an advertisement. This time from Papa Johns, who offers unlimited toppings, as long as you have a maximum of no more than five toppings. (posted by Nave_7 on flickr.)



Related posts:
Deceptive Ad (Dec 3, 2007)
Deceptive Sign (Sep 10, 2007)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 17, 2007
Comments (13)
Here's another example of a retailer creating a misleading display for their product. It's not technically a lie, but it certainly could confuse a shopper who didn't pay close attention. The image has been circulating around the internet recently. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I first saw it.

Related Post: Deceptive Sign.

Update: The image was first posted on Consumerist.com, emailed to them by "William" who saw it at a Toys R Us. (Though I figured out that I first saw it via this reddit link, which didn't offer any explanatory details.)
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Mon Dec 03, 2007
Comments (11)
The Happy Endings Foundation believes that all children's books should have happy endings. Those that don't should be banned.

The organization was (supposedly) started seven years ago by Adrienne Small after she noticed that her daughter seemed miserable after reading Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Mrs. Small plans to rewrite the Lemony Snicket books to give them a happy ending.

Some upcoming events planned by the Happy Endings Foundation include a Halloween "fun and greeting" celebration instead of trick or treating. "Children will be encouraged to knock on someone's door and offer a smlie." Sounds fun. A few days later the foundation will also be hosting a Bad Book Bonfire. Bring along a book with an unhappy ending and watch it go up in flames!

Although the media seems to have accepted the Happy Endings Foundation as real, based on the uncritical articles about it in the press, it definitely isn't real. The biggest clue is the disclaimer that appears on its site:
Most characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living, dead, or half dead, is purely coincidental. None of the non-fictitious people, places or things named in this website were harmed during the creation of the site. We're not sure if the Loch Ness monster is fictitious or non-fictitious, you decide.
Internet sleuths have also figured out that the Happy Endings Foundation website is registered to an advertising firm, artscience.net, that lists A Series of Unfortunate Events as one of its clients. In other words, the Happy Endings Foundation is a marketing hoax.
Categories: Advertising, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 08, 2007
Comments (1)
A commercial for Kleenex that aired in Japan during the 1980s became the focus of an urban legend. Derek Bassett last year described the legend on his blog Mohora:
So the story is this commercial for Kleenex tissues was shown on Japanese TV back in 1986 or so. It features an actress in a white dress sitting next to a child made up to look like a baby ogre. There is a really creepy song in a foreign language that when researched, is actually an old German folk song with the words “Die, die, everyone is cursed and will be killed.” Soon after the debut of the commercial, alot of people complained that it was creepy, or 気持ち悪い, and it was quickly pulled off the air. Soon after though, accidents started to befall the actors and crew of the commercial, including the child playing the baby ogre dying of sudden organ failure, the actress being committed to a mental institution where she is either still there, or at some point hung herself (depending on the version of the story).

Here's the commercial, which Derek uploaded to YouTube.



The ad is kind of creepy, but as you can hear, the song is not an old German folk song, but rather "It's a fine day" by Jane & Barton. Derek also notes that there were no strange deaths associated with the commercial. The woman in the ad, Keiko Matsuzaka, is still working as an actress.

There was also an "angel version" of the commercial that aired at the same time as the "demon version," and Derek has uploaded this to YouTube as well. (via The Home of Ads)
Categories: Advertising, Birth/Babies, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Mon Oct 01, 2007
Comments (8)
I saw the following deceptive sign blogged about on LAist:

image

It seems to advertise a dozen roses for $4, but on closer inspection it's actually advertising a dozen roses for $10. A classic bait and switch scam.

I wrote about some similar advertising scams in Hippo Eats Dwarf. My favorites were the Cleveland Finance Loan Company which enticed those seeking a loan with this offer: "Pay nothing til first payment."

Dunkin Donuts offered: "Free 3 muffins when you buy 3 at the regular 1/2 dozen prize."

And a car dealership boasted: "The price you see is half the price you pay!" Think about it. It means everything on the lot was going for double the sticker price.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 10, 2007
Comments (8)
Two days ago I noted that I had posted an account of the "September Morn" controversy in the hoaxipedia, and I also said that I had my doubts about the role the publicist Harry Reichenbach played in the controversy. Well, I did some more research, and I've now been able to confirm my doubts. Reichenbach was just spinning a wild yarn.

Some background: The story (according to Reichenbach) is that back in 1913 he was working at a New York City art dealer who was trying to sell 2000 copies of a little-known work of art that showed a young woman bathing in a lake. Reichenbach came up with the idea of staging a phony protest. He phoned up Anthony Comstock, head of New York's anti-vice league, and complained that the painting, which was hanging in the window of the store, was indecent. Comstock stormed down to the store, saw a large group of boys gathered outside the store, gawking at the painting, and almost blew his top. He didn't know the boys had been secretly paid by Reichenbach to stand there. Comstock ordered the picture removed and charged the store owner with indecency. The resulting controversy made the picture famous and caused millions of copies of it to be sold throughout the nation.

It's a great anecdote about how a clever marketer got the better of Comstock, who was a self-righteous moral crusader (and thus a perfect comedic foil for Reichenbach's tale). The story is regularly repeated in newspapers, and for years it's been a staple in books about hoaxes. In fact some author called Alex Boese included it in the book version of The Museum of Hoaxes (Dutton, 2002).

Well, Boese evidently didn't do his homework, because some quick digging through newspapers from 1913 would quickly have revealed a major flaw in Reichenbach's story: The September Morn controversy didn't start in New York. It started in Chicago. Comstock did threaten a New York art dealer who displayed the painting in his window, but only two months after Chicago authorities had prosecuted a Chicago art dealer for doing the same thing. It was the Chicago case that made September Morn famous, not the New York one.

At best Reichenbach can claim that he jumped on the bandwagon after the controversy was well underway. But my guess is that Reichenbach simply invented his role in the controversy out of whole cloth.

You can read my entire description of the controversy in the hoaxipedia.
Categories: Advertising, Art, History
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 07, 2007
Comments (7)
You can find a lot of weird stuff on YouTube, such as this video of a water-skiing elephant. Watching it, I feel kind of sorry for the poor elephant made to do this.



The story behind the video is that it was a publicity stunt from 1959 dreamed up by New York PR man Max Rosey in order to promote an amusement park. Rosey was also the man who came up with the idea for an annual hot dog eating contest in Coney Island to promote Nathan's hot dogs.

I found this video (and the explanation about it) on a blog called Liquid Soap, which is about publicity stunts of yesteryear. The blog is written by Mark Borkowski, who's also the head of the UK's Borkowski PR agency.
Categories: Advertising, Animals
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 06, 2007
Comments (9)
Well, after my holiday, my laptop went down, and it's only this week that I'm back online. I do extend my apologies for the lack of 'Best of the Forum' posts for the last few weeks.

Receive the Holy Oil! (Transfrmr)
Forum member Transfrmr found a rather... interesting advertisement in a local free newspaper.
The advertisement (see above link) shows the text:
"I heard voices calling my name but saw nobody. Sometimes the voices told me to throw
myself under a car. To top it off I also suffered with terrible nightmares...I had no peace
at all!
I did a chain of Prayer, used the Holy Oil and fight for changes in my life. Gradually,
the grudges and pain were replaced with peace, forgiveness and joy."

The holy oil comes absolutely free, apparently. If I lived nearby, I'd have been tempted to go along and pick some up.

Man says hold the cheese, claims McDonalds didn't, sues for $10 million (AussieBruce)
Jeromy Jackson, who is allergic to cheese, claims that a local McDonalds made a mistake in his order, causing him to have to be rushed to hospital. He's now suing the chain.
A friend says that Jackson at least five times checked they had his order correct, but when he ate the burger, the reaction was instantaneous. He allegedly ate the burger in a darkened room, causing him to not notice the cheese.
As many people in the forum have noted, surely someone with such severe food allergies would make sure to check his food for himself before consuming it. Whilst this story may be what it seems, it does tingle my spidey-sense somewhat.

CIA behind Wikipedia entries (Smerk)
A new identification program on the popular site Wikipedia has shown that, amongst others, frequent users include CIA, the British Labour Party, and the Vatican, all of whom edit and update not only their own entries, but others besides.

We Have Broken Speed of Light (Tah)
Two German physicists have broken the speed of light, they've told New Scientist magazine.
Doctors Nimtz and Stahlhofen claim to have completed an experiment wherein microwave photons have travelled up to three feet instantaneously.
Categories: Advertising, Business/Finance, Food, Health/Medicine, Law/Police/Crime, Technology
Posted by Flora on Fri Aug 17, 2007
Comments (10)
image Just last week Intel got in trouble for a poorly thought-out ad. And now another technology company is in hot water for the same reason. Quite a few blogs have been posting a picture of a print ad created by QSOL.com. It shows an attractive woman's face with the caption, "Don't feel bad, our servers won't go down on you either."

Intel could credibly claim that they didn't intend for their ad to be racist, but it's hard for QSOL to argue that they didn't intend for this to be sexist. Someone at QSOl must have thought that a bit of frat-house humor would appeal to the purchasers of their technology, whom I'm guessing are mostly male.

The ad does appear to be real. It is said to have appeared in the August, 2007 issue of Linux Journal. However, QSOL.com makes no mention of the ad on their website.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 09, 2007
Comments (11)
image Lots of blogs have been posting this recent Intel ad, pointing out the racist implications of six black men appearing to bow down to a white man. (I actually think all the crouching runners are the same guy, photoshopped into six different places.)

Whether or not it's racist isn't the question. The question for the MoH is: Is it really an ad by Intel? After all, although it's been widely posted, most blogs haven't specified exactly where the ad ran.

The answer is that it definitely is an actual Intel ad. It appeared in a recent Dell catalog. Penciledin.com seems to have been the first blog to post it. Intel has recently posted an explanation and apology on their blog:
Intel’s intent of our ad titled “Multiply Computing Performance and Maximize the Power of Your Employees” was to convey the performance capabilities of our processors through the visual metaphor of a sprinter. We have used the visual of sprinters in the past successfully.
Unfortunately, our execution did not deliver our intended message and in fact proved to be insensitive and insulting. Upon recognizing this, we attempted to pull the ad from all publications but, unfortunately, we failed on one last media placement.
We are sorry and are working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Wed Aug 01, 2007
Comments (12)
image Cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden has gone on record to let everyone know that an image apparently circulating around the internet, showing a supposed ad for Mariah Carey's new perfume, M, is a fake. An Arden spokesman says:
"An image of MC with her fragrance bottle photoshopped in the corner is being featured on several blogs today, and is categorically not the advertisement for her new fragrance, nor is it even remotely close. The real ad for M by Mariah Carey will debut exclusively on TMZ during the second week of August."
To me the fake ad looks pretty professional, which makes me suspect it might be a subviral ad... something planted by an ad agency connected with Arden, which they won't take credit for, but which will allow them to stir up some pre-announcement publicity. After all, if it weren't for Arden denying this fake ad, I would never have known that Mariah Carey was even planning on coming out with a new fragrance.

Interestingly, her perfume is said to smell of "marshmallow and sea breeze." I'm no perfume expert, but that seems like a rather strange combination of fragrances.
Categories: Advertising
Posted by Alex on Wed Jul 25, 2007
Comments (10)
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