April Fools 2017: This Year in Branded Pranks

Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Pranks, Political Pranks, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Satire, The World of the Prank

April Fool’s Day brings a deluge of cleverness. For journalists covering the arts, entertainment, business, culture, or predictably tech (populated as it is by Stanford and MIT wiseacres), tracking the cuteness can be overwhelming.

At The Verge, Elizabeth Lopatto turns in a thoughtful rant on “the 500-year history of a troll holiday,” including an interview with Alex Boese of the Museum of Hoaxes, that explores why some of us are not big fans of 4/1.

Nevertheless, there’s plenty of fun to be had. The enormous display of creativity and break from the standard shilling grind can be inspiring. And a few marketing stunts shine through with transgressive humor, playful conviviality, or something genuinely important to say. (That, or they’re just joyously dumb.)

Here were a few that stood out in 2017.


The Metropolitan Museum’s fictitious partnership with the “sharing economy” startup was a lighthearted means of drawing attention to serious commercialization and fundraising challenges in the art world.

Pornhub’s Automatic Video Sharing

The often cheeky and smart tube site took a subtle swipe at recent legislation shooting down online privacy protection.

Reddit Place

Reddit’s April Fool’s stunts often take the form of complex social experiments, inviting its massive user base to cooperate on elaborate projects. Reddit Place is an enormous canvas, and every user can add one pixel every five minutes.

Cheetos Spray Tan

The snack-maker alludes to a certain person’s garish aesthetic sensibility without mentioning that person’s name, and gets points for acknowledging that it’s part of a national punchline.

Selected roundups:
The best and worst in tech, from TechCrunch
Food highlights, from Eater
The best of celebrities and entertainment
The Sun’s UK rundown
Slate’s list of favorites
Another best-of list, from USA Today

If you read one omnibus guide to April Fools 2017, go with our friends at Snopes.