The April Fool is dead.
Or at least the gentle jester of the common
folk has metastised into a corporate colossus controlled by global
marketing executives, bestriding the Internet to force familiar brands
ever deeper into the collective consciousness.
So while Google
extended a tradition dating back, well, a decade or so, in poking fun at
its own ubiquity - introducing a database of smells and shutting down
its YouTube service it was fitting that old-fashioned, paper-based
media poked fun on Monday at the power of machines over our minds.
Britain, where newspapers have long relished the ancient art of goading
the gullible on April 1, the Guardian offered its leftish, liberal
readers "augmented reality" spectacles to let them "see the world
through the Guardian's eyes at all times".
By staring at a
restaurant, cinema or retail product and the paper's critics' reviews
would come into vision without all the hassle of reaching for the phone,
wrote the Guardian's anagrammatic correspondent Lois P. Farlo. And
"anti-bigotry technology" would screen out offending op-ed columns
should any reader happen to pick up a copy of the right-wing Daily Mail.
meets reality, however, with a payoff line noting the imminent
appearance in stores of Google Glass, which lets wearers view
information in front of their eyes and take video.
which has championed the art of April Fools Day marketing, offered
visitors to its google.com search engine a beta-version of a new
technology, Google Nose - "the new scent-sation in search", a kind of
olfactory world wide web.
In a corporation-wide push for the
global funny-bone, the company also offered gags on its Gmail email
service - poking fun at innovation with a video explaining new, Gmail
Blue would be blue; Google Maps offered a treasure hunting mode and old
parchment style navigation; and Google's YouTube unit "revealed" that
the video-sharing site had all along been a giant contest and would now
shut down to judge the winner.
New products and services were fair
game for other brands keen to show their lighter side Japanese
telecoms company KDDI offered a mobile phone that was actually a bed -
to save ever having to get up; a blog at Twitter, or rather "twttr",
said users who wanted vowels in their microblogs would have to pay.
Procter and Gamble's mouthwash brand Scope offered a new "Bacon" flavour - "For breath that sizzles".
carmaker BMW offered British readers excited at the impending arrival
of a royal baby the P.R.A.M. (Postnatal Royal Auto Mobile) complete with
picture of a sportily styled buggy and corgis at Windsor Castle -
inquiries to Joe.King@bmw.co.uk.
In the more
traditional realm of news-based fun, Yahoo's French website led its
front page with the announcement that, to save money, President Francois
Hollande would move his offices from the Elysee Palace to one of
Paris's grittier suburbs.
"Nesta Vowles" had a story in Britain's
Daily Mail about owls being trained, Hogwarts-style, to deliver internal
mail in an office. It carried photographs of what it called the
"Roy-owl Mail". The rival Daily Express said Queen Elizabeth was renting
out rooms at Buckingham Palace - but, perhaps fearing for its
switchboard, hastened to tell readers that this was a joke.
Sun mocked up a shot of Mick Jagger in a tent and said the millionaire
Rolling Stones were getting into practice for playing at the Glastonbury
rock festival by spending Easter out of doors - at the Rolf Apilo
campsite, of course.
In a more sharply satirical vein, the
Independent took aim at plans to control the British press by reporting
that a pro-regulation lobby group, backed by celebrity victims of media
intrusion, was being consulted by foreign governments including Burma
and Sudan on how to deal with troublesome journalists.
reflected back to a gentler age with a story of newly discovered diaries
by a 19th-century army officer that quoted "experts" comparing them to
two famous historical hoaxes - Piltdown Man's fake "pre-human" bones and
the Hitler Diaries.
Such heavy-handedness seemed an admission of
defeat for a genre whose heyday in more innocent times saw the BBC
bombarded with calls for seed catalogues after it broadcast a news item
on "spaghetti trees" in 1957; 20 years later, would-be tourists called
the Guardian for information on how to get to the idyllic - but sadly
entirely typographical - island of San Seriffe.
It took French
post office, La Poste, to highlight the struggle for survival faced by
traditional media in a new technological age; it issued a press release
announcing that airborne drones were delivering newspapers to people's
Blurring the lines between mirth and marketing, Britain's
Daily Mirror carried a story on the launch of glass-bottomed airliners -
offering special sightseeing trips over Loch Ness. It would, it said,
be operated by Richard Branson's Virgin airline - which duly carried its
own online advert for the new planes, along with publicity for its real
new domestic service.
With April Fools Day ever more an ad man's
dream rather than a moment for pranks in the playground, Coca-Cola put
an ironic, postmodern twist on the whole bluff-or-double-bluff
atmosphere by advertising a relaunched vanilla version of the fizzy
drink in Britain: The slogan? "It's back! - (no really, it is)".
the stress of sifting fact from fiction seemed too much, particularly
for fellow journalists writing reports from the frontline of foolery,
once could have left it to Britain's Metro newspaper to do the legwork
and make things easier.
Its 2013 "round-up of the best jokes" from
other media included a BBC story on NASA's Mars rover tweeting that
bullying by Internet trolls was forcing it off Twitter, the Telegraph on
rabbits bred with human ears and a supermarket press release offering
to deliver food via a 3D printer.
Trouble is, those were all made up by Metro. April Fools!
© Thomson Reuters 2013