April Fool’s Day public relations pranks

By: Katie Gerweck

April 1 is almost here, which means preparing yourself for plenty of pranks. In recent years even big companies have gotten into the April Fool’s game, garnering positive press for their playful pranks.

For example, in 1965 the British Broadcasting Company interviewed a professor who said he had invented “Smell-o-vision,” “that allowed the transmission of smells over airwaves” (source). Viewers fell for the prank, and hundreds called in to report they could smell the coffee and chopped up onion on TV (source). It was a prank “so fondly remembered” that the BBC recreated the prank on its website in 2008 (source).

More recently, Netflix urged its customers to “binge responsibly” with its April Fool’s prank in 2015. According to the Huffington Post, after watching “more than two consecutive episodes of a show on Netflix,” a video warning against the “perils of binge-watching” would appear (source). CNBC reported that Netflix made 13 of these PSA’s, which urged customers to “go outside, call their mothers, and shower” (source).


Source: huffingtonpost.com


However, Netflix wasn’t the only company with a fun April Fool’s joke that year. According to WIRED, Google’s April Fool’s prank “launches Pac-Man on top of real-life city streets within Google Maps” and was a “huge hit that inspired lists of “must-play” locations” (source).

Although these April Fool’s pranks undoubtedly took some effort to put together, they also generated buzz for the companies that created them. By engaging the public with creative and playful pranks, companies can show their silly side and get positive attention as news of the pranks spreads. Who knows what they’ll come up with this year?

Katie Gerweck is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in journalism. She is the editor-in-chief for EMU PRSSA. She was the copy chief for the Eastern Echo during the summer of 2015.


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