April Fool’s Day: Overhyped, or PR stardust?

April Fool’s Day: Overhyped, or PR stardust?

Only five years ago, if you floated something down the Thames, you’d be applauded by clients, colleagues and many mainstream media outlets throughout your sell-in.  Just look at the coverage the nation’s lottery balls, or a giant rubber duck, got way back when.

But as the phrase “float something big down the Thames” turns from a recipe for PR success to one resembling a clutching of straws, is April Fools’ Day following a similar path?

On the list of days to avoid launching a new (real) product, service, or partnership, April Fools’ Day rightly takes top spot. It’s certainly a risk to announce anything factual on April Fools’ Day, and our sympathies go to any PR professional who has sold in a real story on April 1st – good luck with that one.

But as several brands can attest to each year, April Fools’ Day is a chance for those in our industry to unleash their creativity in the most stupendous, ridiculous and (not in all cases) genius ways, if executed correctly.

Here are some of our finer examples from this year’s crop:

Vuelio launch creative agency Pre-R, staffed entirely by children

On a day where PR agencies battle for bragging rights, we start our list with a curveball: media monitoring agency Vuelio. With a mission to “focus on what’s important – creativity, building relationships and communication”, Vuelio this April Fools’ launched brand new PR agency, Pre-R.

Staffed by primary school children, boasting a CEO aged 7 ¾ and an SAM on the cusp of her seventh birthday, Vuelio’s release (and outstanding agency team, clearly) is a stand-out winner this April Fools’ Day.

Crammed with Vuelio messaging helping to advertise their services, a plethora of light-hearted staff names (Avril Falls and Bo Gus, we’re looking at you) and a tagline encouraging other agencies to seek Vuelio’s services for a head start, this is all you need in an April Fools’ gag: get your message out without spending a penny.

Props Vuelio, on embracing your inner child on this one and giving us agency folk some quirky pub chat ammo.

Tinder takes a stance on ‘height-fishing’

If you’re under 6ft and male, you’ll be well aware of the Tinder stigma that comes with it. Your chances of getting a date, so say your colleagues, are slim… so why not add a few inches and heighten your chances?

Not anymore. Tinder announced the launch of a new feature on April Fools’ Day that requires users to input their “true, accurate height” on their profile to receive a Twitter-esque blue tick, leaving our resident 5ft 7in Tinderer momentarily with sweaty palms.

A simple press release relaying a short brand comment some quick social imagery, coverage was received in Daily Mail, The Sun and Metro, while social feeds went crazy.

ICC introduces Instagram handles on player kits

Attracting younger generations to cricket is a challenge we’re well aware of with our current work with The ECB and The Hundred. But when The ICC published a series of controversial rule changes via Twitter, their April Fools’ thread received over 1,000 comments and 23,000 likes with fans quick to applaud and provide opinions to the resulting debate.

As a bonus, #CricketNotAsYouKnowIt has helped generate huge longer-term value for The ICC, with many journalists analysing the series of rules in further threads, blogs and news articles. Not only creating a simple, low-budget campaign, but one that resulted in a hugely valuable gathering of insight is surely every marketeers’ dream. Coverage may be king as they say, but gathering the views of over 1,000 fans on proposed rule changes that directly benefit your long-term vision through a joke Twitter post? A masterclass.

A word of caution

Now, before we all rue why we too didn’t create our own piece of April Fools’ magic, ask yourself one question: is it right?

For many sport stakeholders, government bodies and brands like those we work with, advertising fake services and announcing fake news stories is best avoided – just look at the stance taken by Microsoft. If there’s a risk of a loss of credibility, negative user engagement, not to mention needless budget spend, move on and focus on your next big campaign.

But if you feel, as a brand unafraid to take light of a situation, that there’s a moment of magic to create, dare to dream. Be creative, spread your wings, go PR the hell out of April Fools’ and give us all a good old chuckle as April 1st comes around next year. Just don’t tell us the joke involves the Thames.

Thinking by James Hartnett.