When our potato supplier called to ask if the rumors were true, we knew the joke had worked.
If you weren’t one of the thousands of folks who commented on the Morey’s Piers social media pages two years ago, we played an April Fool’s joke around this time, convincing lots of people that Curley’s Fries, the beloved fry shacks that draw lines all season long, was closing after 50 years in business. We even almost convinced Tony from Tony’s Produce, which supplies the potatoes for Curley’s.
We have to admit it was one for the books. In fact, New Jersey.com named it one of the top April’s Fool’s jokes of the year.
The idea came about during a Food and Beverage staff meeting, says Kyle Morey, a member of our Food and Beverage Management team: “Wouldn’t it be funny if we told people, we were closing Curley’s?” After pitching it around the office - and convincing some skeptics, like Tim Samson, director of Marketing - Kyle and the marketing team put together a press release and shared it on social media. Curley’s would be replaced by a new vegan-friendly spot called Greenery’s, which would cater to healthy eaters and serve up delicacies like locally sourced seaweed and kale chips.
The backlash was swift and powerful.
Among the thousands of comments on our Facebook page alone, there were many who called it out as a joke from the start. But there were plenty who seemed to bite and were not happy.
Some comments were funny, like one commenter who said, “I have NEVER seen a vegan within fifty miles of the Boardwalk. This is Wildwood, not Stone Harbor.”
Some were emotional: “Are you crazy? I can’t believe you’re doing this. I’m sad, mad, and heartbroken… Others indignant: “Just a stupid idea. Close down one of the stupid cotton candy booths. Many people go to the boardwalk just for curly fries. I didn’t get a survey, and we buy season passes!”
“The response was beyond what we expected,” says Maggie Wisnewski, Digital Media, and Public Relations Manager. “My phone was exploding with texts and messages the entire day.”
“I was refreshing my phone every 15 seconds and just seeing comment after comment,” says Kyle.
Things started getting really serious.
“The real challenge was when the Wildwood Convention Center called with Channel 6 wanting to do a story on it,” says Maggie. “We had to tell them it was a joke but to keep quiet. They agreed.”
Denise Beckson, Director of Food and Beverage at the time, answered the call from Tony’s Produce, Kyle says. “We assured him he wasn’t losing our business.”
The press release, crafted with care, credited a (fake) social media survey given by Morey’s the results of which suggested we add more healthy options to cater to Generation Z.
“You dang Millenials are destroying my life,” wrote one frustrated commenter.
“I hope Morey's has a boatload of Generation Z patrons because you have just lost the rest of us,” fumed another.
“When I started seeing the comments about Millennials, I actually worried we might be starting something,” said Kyle.
But all tensions receded once we posted an official April Fool’s announcement on April 1st, confirming that Curley’s would be staying open.
As one commenter joked, “I’ll never get those years of my life back that I lost between yesterday and today...well played Morey.”
So, what are the makings of a successful April Fool’s joke? Based on our experience, here is what we learned.
Start in advance.
The team posted the press release a day before April Fool’s Day. “I suggested we post it early so that people wouldn’t immediately suspect it was a joke,” says Maggie. They also took time with their planning and strategy leading up to the post.
Make it believable.
Creating a full press release that looked just like a real one gave the illusion that the closure was just another company announcement.
“I think it also helped that as a company, we hadn’t pulled an April Fool’s joke before,” says Kyle. “So people weren’t expecting it.”
It’s all in the details.
We loaded up the press release with details to make it look legit: a phony quote from Will Morey, the mention of the social media survey, and the full menu for Greenery’s, complete with roasted chickpeas, kale chips, and “locally sourced seaweed.” The photo of construction around the Curley’s Fries stand was a coincidence, says Maggie, but it was the perfect detail for the joke.
Don’t break character.
“I’m really good at keeping secrets,” says Maggie. “So people were asking, but I kept with it.”
Get people on board - but not too many.
The team kept the joke to just a few staff members, fearing the truth would be leaked with too many people in the loop. This part was a little tough. “I had members of my staff asking me if it was true,” says Kyle. “I just didn’t say anything.”
Play to people’s emotions.
“I think it hit people on an emotional level,” says Maggie. Enjoying Curley’s Fries is not only a tradition but a staple of their Wildwood vacation. So the idea of that going away was hard for people to grasp.”
In the end, we gave out free Curley’s to anyone who showed up at the stand’s annual opening later that month. Die-hard Curley’s fans can also get some official Curley’s gear this year. Check it out.
Once the jig is up on a prank, there’s only one thing to do: start planning the next prank.