Date posted: April 1, 2013
It’s April 1st, and many of us are encountering April Fool’s jokes. It might be an article in the newspaper, a story on the radio, someone’s Facebook post, or an e-newsletter. In recent years, corporations have gotten into the act, too. In one famous example from 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in the New York Times claiming they’d purchased the Liberty Bell to help reduce the US national debt. This year’s example looks like it will come from Scope, with an ad introducing a new, bacon-flavored mouthwash .
Once you’ve had your chuckles, it’s worth asking why a company would spend the money, time and effort to create an ad for a fake product. If done well, such a prank can get people talking about the company and or product, resulting in lots of free publicity. The Taco Bell ad inspired outraged letters to the editor, calls to Congressional offices, and news stories. Revealed as an April Fool’s joke, it was a major topic of conversation for days. However, some thought it a tasteless and unpatriotic stunt, so there’s always the possibility for unintended results.
In an age of social media and in an effort to appeal to young consumers (the 18-24 year olds most desirable to advertisers), corporations also use initiatives like this to position their brand as trendy and cool, hoping to spark social media conversations that extend the ad’s reach and generate more free attention.
Take a look at the elements that go into making this ad appear legitimate—the voice of the narrator, the way the imagery plays off familiar scenes in ads, the dramatic lighting and camera angles—as well as the (wink, wink) clues that this is a joke. Also note in the bacon bra (“oh, this old thing?”) a twist on the frequent use of sex to sell products. And the pop culture reference to Kevin Bacon.
Yes, by posting a blog, I am participating in the viral spread of this ad and, in a way, furthering the corporate aims of Scope. But it is a great example of a piece of media that can be analyzed using the 5 core concepts and key questions of media literacy .
Mabye the next time you see one of these viral videos you’ll pause for a moment to reflect on the purpose behind it and the execution of the idea before you share, forward, pin or tweet it to your friends.