Prank You Very Much: Our Favorite Advertising from April Fool’s Day

April 1, 2014 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

April 1st is just another day of the week. Another day they wake up at the same time, drive the same route to work, park in the same parking space, walk up the same flight of stairs and sit at the same desk, doing the same work they did the day before. For others, April Fool’s Day marks a day of opportunity. A chance to cut loose, have fun and get in touch with their inner creative mischief-maker.

Working at an ad agency, there’s no limit to the pranks people have pulled on each other. Some of my favorites include wrapping a co-worker’s SUV entirely with aluminum foil, filling hundreds of cups with water and lining them up on the office floor so no one could take a step without flooding the place, putting a piece of fish from lunch into a desk drawer only to be noticed weeks later when the stench became unbearable and of course, the time a stuffed goat was placed at an employee’s desk and startled her so much, you could hear the cursing on the other end of the building.

Still, the best part about April Fool’s is that sometimes the hijinks bleed over into client work where all the world’s a stage. When even, if just for a day, people take the bait hook, line and sinker and then laugh about it later. Here are five of our favorite April Fool’s Day advertising classics from year’s past:

Left-Handed Whopper

In 1998, Burger King published a full-page ad in USA Today announcing a new item on their menu: the Left-Handed Whopper. Especially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans, the new burger included the same ingredients as the original Whopper, but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. Thousands of customers went into restaurants to request the new sandwich, while many others requested their own ‘right handed’ version.

Left Handed Whopper

Taco Bell Buys The Liberty Bell

The idea that a beloved icon of American independence could be sold to a fast-food Mexican chain is as ridiculous as the Eiffel Tower being sold to French’s Mustard. But that didn’t stop Taco Bell. In 1996, some clever copywriting about Taco Bell doing its part to reduce the national debt by buying The Liberty Bell suckered more than a few people. Renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell” also ruffled a few feathers. Obviously it was a complete farce, but in it’s last stroke of genius, Taco Bell donated $50,000 to help preserve the national treasure.


BMW’s Insect Deflector Screen

Oh, those annoying bugs. You travel at 70mph and they have the nerve to splatter on your beautiful windshield. Well, BMW decided to use this to their advantage in 1996, with a hoax that announced the Insect Deflector Screen or IDS. It was developed by a Munich scientist named Dr. Jurgen Afalfurit (A-Fal-Fur-It = I Fell For It). According to the announcement, the invisible coating caused bugs to bounce off the windshield, keeping your view splatter-free. There was even a survey that customers could fill out, which asked the following question: “I find flies get stuck to my windscreen — Hardly ever; Sometimes; Far too Often.”

Bug Splatter

Virgin Atlantic Advertises on Genetically Modified Butterflies

What could be more beautiful than advertising on the back of a butterfly? Richard Branson‘s Virgin Atlantic asked that question in 2002. Citing a study published inTrends in Ecology and Evolution, it was revealed that Dr. Antonia Montiero could genetically modify a butterfly to become an advertising vessel. The new breed would enable companies to put logos on the butterfly wings with laser beams. From the release: “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. Virgin hopes to be able to control the flight areas of the butterflies, keeping them within major park and recreational areas, but is still working out specific details.”


Swiss Spaghetti Harvest Prank

Quite possibly our favorite, and proof April Fool’s Day pranks have been happening since the dawn of TV, in 1957, the BBC pulled a prank, known as the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest prank, where they broadcast a fake film of Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti. The BBC were later flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a prank on the news the next day.

Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

– Tina Tackett is Executive Creative Director at The Loomis Agency in Dallas.

advertisingApril Fools Day

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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