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How Much Did Taco Bell Spend on an April Fools Prank in 1996?

Many companies capitalize on holidays and public events to market themselves by creating hype about their products. Many particularly create buzz during April Fools, despite not being a regular holiday, like Taco Bell. But do you know how much the chain invested in promoting their company in 1996?

In April Fools’ 1996, Taco Bell released an ad announcing that they purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it “Taco Liberty Bell.” The fast-food chain allegedly spent nearly $300,000 running the ad.

What was the Prank About? 

On April 1, 1996, six major American newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and USA Today, ran a full-page advertisement that the fast-food chain Taco Bell purchased Liberty Bell.

The ad said that Taco Bell purchased Liberty Bell to help alleviate the national debt. Taco Bell announced in the ad that they will be renaming the Liberty Bell to Taco Liberty Bell. It further stated the bell will still be accessible for public viewing and urged other corporations to take a similar act to do their part in helping alleviate the national debt.

Taco Bell also announced in a separate press release that the Liberty Bell would spend time both in its original location in Philadelphia and Taco Bell’s headquarters in Irvine. The fast-food chain also mentioned that Taco Bell’s heritage and imagery have revolved around the symbolism of the bell and that they now have the crown jewel of bells.

The ad campaign cost about $300,000, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. But the prank generated about $25 million worth of advertising, and the fast-food sales increased by $600,000 the following day. According to reports, the idea for the prank came from Taco Bell CEO John Martin’s mother. Though not verified, the prank was considered very successful for the fast-food chain. (Source: Hoaxes)

How was the Prank Received?

The prank generated news stories across the nation. Tom Brokaw of NBC Nightly News dedicated a segment about it. He reported that big corporate sponsors had dipped their hands in everything. They are seen in football, baseball, or any game imaginable. The segment also featured people’s reactions when they learned that the fast-food purchased the bell.

Former Mayor Ed Rendell supported the prank. In Rendell’s interview with NBC, he mentioned that he approved the sale and is in full support of it. Furthermore, he mentioned that he was a Taco Bell consumer and that he thought that corporate sponsorships were the way of the future. Even the press secretary Mike McCurry got in with the prank. McCurry announced that Ford bought the Lincoln Memorial and renamed it Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

Thousands of Americans began calling Taco Bell’s headquarters and the National Park Service in Philadelphia. Many of the callers expressed their concern about the sale. Others who realized that it was a joke felt that the joke was cheesy and in bad taste. Some even questioned the extent of how far advertising practices by corporations should be allowed to go. But by noon of the same day, Taco Bell issued a second press release, confessing that the ad was a prank. Furthermore, the fast-food chain would donate $50,000 for the upkeep of the bell. (Source: Philly Voice)

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