Ah, April Fool’s Day, a centuries-old tradition slowly but consistently poisoned by power trips and unimaginative ‘marketing gurus’.
The holiday has always had its assholes — back in 1561 Flemish writer Eduard De Dene wrote of servants being forced to do absurd chores for their aristocratic masters.
There were no servants involved when I was a kid though — just a solid blind corner, my best monster face and parents with a sense of humour.
But these days April Fool’s resembles something closer to a supermarket aisle, with every company with a trademark unashamedly flogging their wares with conceited attempts at PR-safe ‘gags’.
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We’ve built the proverbial golden arches on it, franchised and ready for the masses. Keen on a faux product launch? A ‘radical’ new business plan? Or the latest sex-related gadget? Plenty to pick from as a horde of marketing executives fall over each other trying to become the next soulless viral hit.
Already today Virgin Australia, ING, Deliveroo, Amazon’s Audible, Origin Energy and Expedia-owned Wotif are spruiking their claims for a chance at April Fool’s Day fame.
Australian foodies rejoice because Virgin Australia is now delivering food from your favourite interstate restaurant, right to your front door! So when you’re tossing up what to order for dinner tonight, remember that the sky’s the limit. pic.twitter.com/xgQtsDZ96v
— Virgin Australia (@VirginAustralia) 31 March 2019
Perhaps that’s our lot, watching on as the digital world enables a slow and painful merger between what little is left of our personal lives and the ever-growing spectre of useless consumption.
And this is the definition of useless consumption — in fact, it doesn’t even exist! It’s all a joke, after all. You’re supposed to laugh. What’s funnier than the corporate world jamming its fingers into every orifice of the social media zeitgeist?
When big business decides April Fool’s Day is an essential part of the corporate calendar, small firms feel compelled to follow suit or miss out — it’s a race to the bottom and once we’re there nobody will care anymore anyway.
We’re supposed to forget all that though and have a laugh about the silliness of it all. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss TV ads — at least you could turn those off.
That’s really the point, isn’t it? We can’t turn it off. You could try to make an April Fool’s joke with your friends on Twitter, but two posts down and you’ll be served the latest billion-dollar conglomerate’s attempt at getting cool with the kids.
The entire affair has become such a theatre performance that journalists were receiving embargoed April Fool’s Day jokes last week! Not even the date is sacred anymore.
How long before some ‘creative’ marketing department devises a joke that starts in mid-March? It will be hot cross buns all over again — it starts earlier every year when there is a sales funnel to fill.
There’s a genuine spirit to April Fool’s Day that the next generation should be able to take in its own direction, but perhaps we’ve already lost the battle. It may be time to consign the centuries-old tradition to the dustbin of history.
After all, when it’s all money it’s no fun. We’re the modern version of the servants and De Dene is, apparently, a marketing genius.