Spare us these terrible stunts in corporate PR on April Fools' day

It used to be about family and friends; now it’s just a soulless annual jestival

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I can imagine them now, the horsey Henriettas and quiffed Williams brainstorming, mindclouding and thoughtrippling their way through a bunch of oh-so-hilarious, oh-so-whacky corporate April Fools’ japes.

Virgin Atlantic is to fly the world’s first glass-bottomed plane. Titter, titter. Google Maps has created a treasure mode. Arf, arf. YouTube isn’t accepting any more videos. Chuckle, chuckle. BMW has designed a pushchair. Wait, wait, I’m struggling to breathe. Hotels.com is offering bookings inside Buckingham Palace. ROFL. Such elfish PR ribaldry!

I thought these companies were mere corporate machines; monstrous giants, lumbering around the globe in their dumb hunger to grow fat on money and power. Now I realise they’re my mates. BMW has a sense of humour. Google is a cheeky monkey. Virgin and YouTube are a pair of pranksters. Prank. If ever I wanted to punch a word in the face, honestly.

April Fools’ day was once about friends and family members playing innocent tricks on one another. My mother once sewed the legs of my school trousers together. It was humiliating and unfunny but at least she wasn’t trying to sell me a car. Now this annual jestival has become every bit as soulless and manipulative as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s and St Patrick’s Day. It is a marketing opportunity. A chance for brands to be softened and humanised. Let’s go for a pint with Tesco. It’s well funny.

But the PR trick is flawed. The truth is too subtle for any marketing executive to appreciate: the fact is that most people who see these fake adverts respond with a roll of their eyes and a dull sense of jaded exasperation. Virgin Atlantic’s effort makes it seem like the irritating idiot at the party who has drunk too much Malibu. Please go away. Please don’t try to be funny.

The gargantuan effort that must have gone into the Google Maps blag is deeply embarrassing. Imagine putting in so many hours for something so pointless and unimpressive. It is the April Fools’ equivalent of the Commonwealth Games. And BMW’s effort to combine its jest with public excitement over the next Royal baby is decidedly icky. I suspect the skinny-jeaned lump with the ironic glasses who came up with that idea has been treated to a hamper of organic jams in celebration of his or her turgid cynicism. 

In their scrambling, attention-seeking desperation for hits, tweets and views, these multinational companies are sacrificing their credibility. It’s all too eager, too earnest and too transparent. Somewhere out there, a consumer is trying to book a room in Buckingham Palace. Another will be attempting to purchase a BMW pushchair. But the companies themselves are the real April Fools, not the gullible consumers.

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