What Google's April fool says about creativity (and what YouTube's doesn't)
A good April Fool is hard to get right. It's one thing to come up with a gag, it's another to create something that is genuinely funny on many levels, appeals to a wide audience and deserves to be shared. In fact, you could argue that it illustrates the strengths and pitfalls of any creative-humorous campaign. Take a look at the respective efforts of Google and YouTube this morning and you'll see what I mean.
First off, Google's Gmail Motion launch. At first glance it's a simple joke - which is one of its strengths. But look more closely at the execution and you can see how the gag ripples out in many directions. Here's a quick summary of what works well:
Funny: The primary objective of any April Fool. I actually had a laugh out loud moment with the 'reply all' sequence in the video.
Believable: Even if it's only for a split second, the gag should be credible. Email + gesture-based UX? It had me going, though I'm not going to confess the duration of my gullibility.
Self-aware: Like any good April Fool it pokes fun at the source. We are Google. We are geeks. We love tech. We wear short sleeved shirts and ties. Sometimes.
Mocks the industry (and the competition): There's more than a sly dig at Kinect and probably a bit of quiet respect too. The tone is spot on here.
Wide audience appeal: Developers, marketers, UX experts. Oh, and anyone who uses email.
Invites repeat visits: The joke works on many levels. It draws you in, plays with your expectations
and invites you to explore the content. You can go back to it again and
find plenty of detail to admire and laugh about on repeat visits
Smart execution: Short videos, believable schematics, neat photography, all wrapped up in the Gmail brand.
Campaignable: An April Fool is a one off. But if you wanted to, you could stretch this gag further in many directions.
Cost-effective: Can't say for sure here, but apart from the professionally produced videos, this looks like it could have been brainstormed and put together in a matter of days or less.
High profile: The 'launch' is announced on the Gmail home page. That's pretty brave and confident by any measure.
Global: Small point but this matters. The Gmail motion gag is out of the gates already. YouTube's 1911 parody piece is just about to hit the wires.
I won't dwell too much on the YouTube 1911 April Fool. It's funny, granted. But it's one-dimensional. And while there are five short clips, it's the same gag five times. That's the point of pastiche, but it also shows up the limits of this approach.
So there you go. With plenty of time to spare, there'll be a lot more banana skins before the day is out. But I'm not sure if any of them will top Google's effort. What do you think? Seen a better joke and what makes it work from a creative perspective?