I’ve never been much for April Fool’s shenanigans. But, April 1st always brings to mind a piece I did while working as the Copywriter/Advertising Coordinator for Glamour Shots. This was during the heyday of Glamour Shots. When they couldn’t sell franchises fast enough and every mall wanted to lease them a corner location. At the time, Glamour Shots glamor photos were seemingly a must for every American female between the ages of 18 and 80.
The Glamour Shots advertising strategy then was to include a small “before” and large “after” shot. The ad copy highlighted what was euphemistically called “a professional makeover and photo session.” In reality, it was an hours-long ordeal where a woman’s face was spackled over to hide any flaws. The wardrobe hid other flaws and accented any positive characteristics. During the shoot, the woman was posed, positioned, prodded, and contorted. The goal was to capture her best side … and to sell her a bunch of photos.
And Then, April 1st Comes Along…
In 1992, the owner of Glamour Shots and his wife suggested an April Fool’s Day joke ad for our store owners. The gist of the “ad” made fun of the arduous Glamour Shots process and used a pic of a dog as the “Before” photo. We inserted four asterisks to correspond with the fine print copy. That fine print was everything we all secretly felt about Glamour Shots. At the bottom of the fine print, we tipped our hand and wished everyone a Happy April Fool’s Day.
To make it even more obvious, we dated the accompanying cover letter for April 1st. We noted how we devised the “perfect Glamour Shots newspaper ad” by closely observing Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune. We even mentioned the factors considered in developing this ad. That included “the relative bigness of the model’s hair in her before photo compared to her after photo.” Ultimately, everyone thought it was pretty funny and we received plenty of compliments from amused Glamour Shots owners.
It Was Going Great, Except For…
The Glamour Shots location in Corpus Christi, TX was fairly new. Being in a mainly Hispanic market, they were trying to toe the company line and translate the Glamour Shots experience into a different culture. But, what they didn’t do was read the fine print. Or get the irony of our cover letter or the ad. Following what they’d learned during training, they ran the April Fool’s ad in their local paper without a second look.
We got wind of it when a south Texas alternative newspaper called the corporate ad department looking for comment. While they didn’t get much from us, they still had plenty to run with for their story. Ultimately, other than the store owner and manager’s pride, no one was directly hurt, though the harsh truths we pointed out in the ad likely did serve to dissuade some customers who might have been on the fence about coming to Glamour Shots.
So, What Have We Learned?
It would be easy to let this be a puritanical lesson on the perils of April Fool’s Day tomfoolery. Instead, remember everything you put out for public consumption can come back and bite you. Don’t assume your customer will read the fine print or the bold print for that matter. Don’t even assume your customer will “get it.” Craft your words carefully and make them count to get the most from your advertising message. Whether it’s April 1st or any other day of the year!