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Not so corporate after all: the best brand pranks and hoaxes

By Mel Peck

April 5, 2013 | 6 min read

In a week where April Fools' Day gags have dominated The Drum's Viral Video Chart, Mel Peck from the Viral Ad Network picks out the best pranks, jokes and hoaxes that have been trending online.

It’s not like brands have ever needed an excuse to play around with prank advertising, but April Fools day is the perfect opportunity for marketers to flex their creative muscles.

Newspapers and TV stations have been toying with April Fools' Day jokes for decades, but the increasing amount of mainstream media attention has led more and more marketers to start using it as a way to boost awareness of their brand and, unsurprisingly, this week’s chart is packed full of April Fools stunts, from tongue-in-cheek ads to hilarious product launches teetering on the verge of credibility – bacon mouthwash anyone?

Here’s a quick run down of some of the top trending April Fools' Day campaigns that made it into the Viral Brands Chart this week…

Shooting straight to the top of the listings with nearly 9 million views is a hoax video from YouTube. The channel announced that following a global competition to find the ultimate viral video, it would close down until 2023 while a team of researchers watched all 8 years' worth of clips to decide on a winner. According to Mashable, YouTube teamed up with the notoriously satirical newspaper The Onion to orchestrate the story, enlisting a host of well-known viral celebrities to act as judges.

Snatching the second, third and seventh spots in the chart this week is Google, with a string of April Fools hoax videos; from the invention of ‘smell-o-vision’ from Google Nose, to the introduction of Treasure Mode on Google Maps and the latest cutting edge email redesign in the form of Gmail Blue. (For anyone who got a bit sad when they realised that Blue wasn’t actually real don’t worry, there’s now a new Chrome Extension to bring the joke to life!)

From a marketer’s perspective, April Fools' Day isn’t just a chance to show the world that you have a sense of humour, it’s also an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of your products and create something fun. There’s a fine line to tread if you don’t want to seem overly promotional, but two brands that got it right this year were Barclaycard and Honda.Entering the chart at number eight with over a quarter of a million views, Barclaycard announced the release of PayWag, a new payment method for dogs. Information about the fictitious device was posted across the bank’s social media channels on 31 March, with a link to a video explaining how the ingenious design is intended to fit discreetly under a normal dog collar. Not only can pet owners now take their dog out and leave their wallet at home, but PayWag allows your pooch to select its own toys or tasty treats and pay for them itself, with transactions appearing on your card statement helpfully marked with a paw print symbol. Yes, it’s just a bit of lighthearted fun, but the April Fools joke is also a clever way to raise awareness of PayTag, the bank’s new contactless payment technology.

At number nine, Japanese car manufacturer Honda came up with the perfect device for the modern multi-tasking lifestyle – the new Odyssey mini-van comes equipped with a special hair cutting vacuum to style your hair while you are on the move (anyone familiar with the awesomness that is the Flowbee will notice a striking resemblance, but believe it or not, the Flowbee is actually real!). Obviously the HondaHair is an April Fools joke, but it’s a clever PR stunt designed to promote the newly-unveiled Odyssey, which includes a vacuum cleaner in the back called 'HondaVac'.Moving across to the UGC chart and topping the list with over eight million views, a kung-fu-grandpa kicks evil’s ass with some serious nunchuck action in a supermarket car park. The clip was caught on camera by a fellow shopper and started trending across YouTube after it was featured on the front page of Reddit on Friday. The amusing commentary has already been songified and various parody mashups have been trending on YouTube this week – there could be a new meme on the viral scene!

Elsewhere in the UGC & Entertainment listings: Ant and Dec hit YouTube with a blast of retro pop nostalgia, taking us back nearly 20 years with a performance of 90s classic Let's Get Ready to Rhumble; Two New York subway passengers fight it out in an epic sax battle; and we learn how to scramble a hard boiled egg inside its shell (oddly I kinda want to try this out at home).For all of the chart news and the full rundown of top videos on the internet this week, check out The Drum Viral Video Chart, powered by VAN, or follow @JoinVan to stay up to date with the latest industry news and YouTube gossip.


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