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What is primarily a social media engagement campaign, April Fool’s at Oakland University has evolved into a multi-pronged communication effort that has become a tradition in its own right. April Fool’s is an opportunity to creatively engage with the entire OU community with potential far-reaching and long-lasting benefits. 

While it might seem cruel in the moment, April Fool's has proven to be a fun and lighthearted event that people talk about for years to come.

The psychology behind April Fool's:

Michele Parkhill Purdie, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department at OU. She spoke with local media about the benefits of a good April Fool's joke. Hear Dr. Michele Parkill Purdie's interview on WWJ.

"There is a psychology behind pranks like this. For those being pranked, the prank itself (and then subsequently 'getting' the joke) allows for a bit of self-reflection and perhaps even being humbled. We realize that others can 'get' us with a prank. Across both the prankers and pranked, there's a huge element of group cohesion. These pranks, particularly because they are being played out on such a big level, will create a greater identification with the OU community. Students will feel a bit more connected — it's something they can all laugh about. And years down the road, I would bet a lot of students will reflect on these pranks very positively. A university — stereotypically a staunch, serious place of study — is demonstrating that we can have fun around here. It's good for everyone involved."

A running joke:

2019: Meadow Brook Hall Estate Sale

Instead of relying heavily on visual media, in 2019 we wanted to test the true strength of our reach with a News at OU story. In order to do this, it was crucial to partner with another area on campus to increase the potential reach. Thus, partnering with Meadow Brook Hall on the annual April Fool's joke.

Antiques Roadshow visited the estate in June, which drew a crowd of nearly 3,000 people during the taping of three episodes of the popular PBS television series. The episodes aired on Jan. 7, 14 and 21 on PBS.

Riding the coattails of the Anitques Roadshow success and to create buzz about our campus's most historic landmark, we settled on an estate sale have much brainstorming. Knowing that this would intrigue historians, collectors, thrifters and even tap into the current "upcycle" culture we felt we had an intriguing enough story.

And that we did! The news story was the third highest trafficked page for April 1 behind a paid campaign and the OU homepage. The reach on social media was triple the average with engagement up 204% on April 1.

Check out the Facebook post.

2017: Sasquatch Sighting

In 2016, OU’s top performing social media posts were drone photography and April Fool’s. So in 2017, we combined the two for this year’s joke. The story broke on the oaklandu Snapchat. Christian Kettenbeil starts his takeover like it’s just a typical Saturday. At 9:30 a.m., Christian gets home from his pickup hockey game and begins to load some drone footage (he is #OUFamous for his winning fall photo contest drone pic over Meadow Brook). He spots a creature in the woods! He and his friends play along with the joke throughout the day as he continues a fun takeover.

The news was quickly posted to the OU Magazine online, home page, and social channels.

2016: Pet the Grizzly Cubs

The joke: A pre-finals de-stress event brings grizzly bear cubs to campus.

This year's April Fool's promoted the benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy and Graham Health Center's available assistance at this stressful time of year.

More than 200 students, faculty, and staff members stopped by to pet the grizzly cubs and more than 50,000 people saw the posts on social media before 2 p.m. on Friday, April 1, 2016. It was a great case study for how to market a pop-up event on campus!

OU's social media team worked with campus partners such as the Psychology Department and Graham Health Center to provide expertise on April Fool's as well as de-stress tips. Video Services helped produce this video, capturing candid reactions.

2015: Tunnel Renovations

The joke: Long-rumored tunnels were discovered by students, prompting a premature announcement of planned renovations. 

The Social Media Team developed several videos that brought together alumni, faculty, and current students as they rallied around this longstanding campus folklore. Truth be told, we're still not sure what's true and what's not true. 

Check out the videos and landing page. 

2014: Post-Apocalyptic Studies

The joke: Beginning in fall 2014, Oakland University will be offering an interdisciplinary program designed to prepare students for what some believe is the inevitable — the end of the world as we know it.

Travel back in time to when The Walking Dead was at the height of popularity, which is when OU announced this "new program." This joke was an opportunity to highlight OU's (real) academic offerings and faculty expertise on this trending topic. It wasn't too long after this joke that we started to see other universities offer this as a real program. We would like to think they got the idea from us. 

Social media traffic was directed to the Post-Apocalyptic Studies Major landing page. 

2013: Bear Lake Goes All-Sports

In its inaugural year, Oakland University's April Fool's joke announced that Bear Lake would go all-sports, complete with boat rentals and a beach.

The interactive infographic allowed users to cruise around the lake to see what the offerings would be and promoted summer course registration.

University Communications and Marketing

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