VSPC’s April Fool’s Ploy Makes Worldwide Splash

Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 1:36pm

St. Pete/Clearwater, FL (April 2, 2014) - People around the world got wind of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater's first-ever April Fool's creation, the "manaphin," as word quickly spread through major news outlets Tuesday about the "rare marine mammal" spotted off the coast of St. Pete/Clearwater.

The April Fool's release was hailed by Yahoo! and ABC News as one of the top pranks in the world, appearing in best-of lists that included entries from some of the planet's best-known brands---including Google, Netflix, YouTube and Virgin Atlantic.

The UK news website Telegraph.co.uk went one step further by rating it 7-out-of-10, placing it in a tie for its highest-scoring April Fool's prank of 2014.

News of the manaphin was shared by dozens of outlets around the world---from travel blogs to major news websites to local TV stations---starting with coverage in the UK in the wee hours and creating a substantial buzz by morning on the U.S. East Coast. And while the exact number of media impressions and the outreach generated is still being tallied, the total is expected to be in the tens of millions (see this article for a synopsis of the coverage).
VSPC officials were elated by the attention the destination received from the international manaphin mania, citing it as an effective way to engage potential visitors and show the world a fun, personal side of the St. Pete/Clearwater brand.

"Our objective was not to convince people that manaphins exist, because we're still not sure whether they do," said VSPC Deputy Director David Downing. "But we wanted to use the age-old April Fool's media tradition to position the St. Pete/Clearwater brand as young, hip and willing to engage in a playful way---just like some of the world's most successful brands," he added. "And to that end, the outreach was very effective."

According to VSPC Social Media Manager Leroy Bridges, the manaphin craze has generated some 7.1 million potential impressions on social media thus far, with both ABC News & Yahoo sharing the news both online and via social channels. Also, the "purposely amateurish" web page VSPC created for the event, Manaphin.com, (misspellings, a video that won't load), registered some 10,000 visits Tuesday alone.

"We're amazed at how engaged people were, and how much fun they had with it," Downing said. "And now the pressure is on to top this stunt next year---and that's the hardest part of all."