April Fools Day: From Dabur To Volkswagen, Revisiting Ad Campaigns That Fooled Us

April Fools Day: From Dabur To Volkswagen, Revisiting Ad Campaigns That Fooled Us

April Fools’ Day serves as a reminder for the gullible to stay wary. But sometimes, while you’re proudly sitting in disbelief, your pranker is working some reverse psychology – serving you with ‘too good to be trues’, that turn out to be true.

Tsunami CostaBirUpdated: Monday, April 01, 2024, 11:22 AM IST
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Who doesn’t love a good April Fools’ joke? Like when H&M said it’s newest collection was going to be a Mark Zuckerberg-inspired capsule collection (7 grey tees for every day of the week and a pair of blue jeans), or when Honda announced an advanced honking system - one that would have a softer, human-sounding voice. 

For a second there, we probably did wish those offerings were real, but alas, they weren’t. In many ways, April Fools is a great day for brands to showcase their creativity through clever campaigns. 

Still clever are the innovative product announcements Google makes on April Fools, some whimsical, but some turn out true. Like their 2004 announcement launching webmail - that offered a gigabyte of free storage (a mammoth announcement for its time), or their joke crossover announcement between Google Maps and Pokemon in 2014, only for the concept to be released in 2016 as ‘Pokemon GO’.

Then, there’s brands that don’t wait around for the day to make unscientific, unrealistic claims, and aim to blur the lines between fact and fiction. Like Dabur who claimed Chyawanprash increases people’s immunity by 3 times, or their most recent ‘Covid protection from consuming 2 spoons a day’ claim with no credible backing. In the same boat is Complan that “assures” optimal paediatric nutrition – increasing height, stamina and memory in kids. Again, backed by no credible research. 

There are also campaigns that tried to be funny but didn’t fare as well - like when Volkswagen said it would rebrand to Voltswagen - as a way to promote the electrification of vehicles. While it was designed to be an April Fools’ joke, it leaked earlier and left people upset as their joke seemed to undermine the environmental commitment of automakers.

It was attention grabbing but was it clever?

In 2015, BMW ran an ‘April Fools’ Day Special’ newspaper ad saying that the first person to walk into a dealership and ‘ask for Tom’ could swap their old car for a new BMW. Many thought it was an April Fools’ joke. But BMW took the other route and wanted to reward the person willing to take that chance – giving one lucky woman her brand new $50,000 car. 

It is really genius to announce a deal that is too good to be true and leave people guessing and hoping that it might actually be. 

April 1st or not, there’s plenty of jokes coming your way. But to believe or not to believe - that is the question.

“In an attention deficit world, brands are looking for new and instant ways to connect with their audience. But you have to do it with greater awareness and sensitivity. Creativity is sensitivity in a world where no one is listening.” Josy Paul, Chairman and CCO, BBDO India

“Unlike other, more celebratory days where consumers have reached an exhaustion level, April Fool’s Day is seen from a more curious lens. It is intriguing to see how innovatively brands take them forward.” Skandaram Vasudevan, Strategy Director, 22feet Tribal Worldwide

“In advertising, people are either laughing with you or at you. You have to be very sensitive when putting out an April Fools’ campaign as nobody likes being lied to, even as a joke.” Ad Guru Prahlad Kakar

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