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    Taco Liberty Bell Hoax


    The Taco Liberty Bell was an April Fool's Day joke played by fast food restaurant chain Taco Bell. On April 1, 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in seven leading U.S. newspapers announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell". Thousands of people protested before it was revealed at noon April 1 that the sale was a hoax. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry responded that the federal government was also "selling the Lincoln Memorial to Ford Motor Co. and renaming it the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial."

    The prank was considered a successful advertising gambit by those involved. David Paine, Founder of PainePR, the public relations agency that executed the campaign, called it "the most successful project I've been involved with". The campaign cost was just $300,000, but it generated an estimated $25 million equivalent in free publicity, with a sales increase exceeding $1 million for the first two days in April. Paine, however, feels that the climate today is much more cautious and a comparable prank is not possible. The origin is credited to the mother of then-CEO John Martin.

    The stunt has also been listed as one of the top hoaxes or marketing stunts over the years. Entrepreneur Magazine includes it among its "Top 10 Successful Marketing Stunts". The Museum of Hoaxes ranks it as #4 on its list of the "Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time". According to marketing author Thomas L. Harris, the stunt worked because "in today's world ... almost everything is corporate-sponsored", making the announcement believable even for "a national historic monument." The company coined the term "publitisement" to describe its stunt, "breaking through advertising clutter to achieve massive awareness" for its then-new "Nothing Ordinary About It" ad campaign. From the other side, activist Paul Rogat Loeb lamented that the hoax "felt too real for comfort" in an era "when every value, ideal, and public symbol has a profit-seeking sponsor."
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