We had a lot of fun again partnering on the City of Ely’s annual April Fool’s Day prank:
From the Ely Echo…
Ely ‘bans’ social media, on April 1st
by Tom Coombe
Unsuspecting souls, or those who didn’t bother to look at the calendar may have believed Monday that Ely banned access to social media.
Of course it was all just a gag.
After a couple years off, the Ely Chamber of Commerce - with the aid of a Twin Cities marketing agency - initiated the latest in a series of April Fools Day spoofs designed to bring attention to the community and promote the area as a tourism destination.
This year’s campaign, highlighting a “ban” on social media within the community’s borders, kicked off in earnest Monday with widespread media publicity as well as an event on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.
Like previous pranks pulled on April 1, the most recent spoof took on a life of its own and generated widespread coverage via newspapers, radio and television - including a mention on the NBC Nightly News - and ironically enough through social media.
In an era when millions regularly log into Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to gather information, share ideas, interact with friends and acquaintances and get the latest news, Ely tourism officials and other community leaders urged to look up from their cell phones, iPads and computers - at least for awhile - to learn more about the area and enjoy the outdoors.
“The only thing online in Ely is a fish. And why would anyone need Pinterest?” said Ely Mayor Ross Petersen in a news release announcing the ‘ban.’ “We have a big bulletin board over at the grocery store for that sort of thing. Or the Twitter? We have at least a hundred forty characters right here, living in Ely. We’ve got a million acres of exclusive content, and hundreds of sites you can visit - in person.”
While the spoof was picked by conventional and social media, those gathered in one of Minneapolis’ busiest areas encountered street teams on Monday, including people doing “social media interventions” with people they saw walking with their phones. Others wore giant cones around their necks to prevent them from looking at phones, and some handed out wooden bird whistles with stickers that read “Tweet this! ely.org.”
The Ely marketeers also distributed petition cards asking them to commit to five consecutive phone-free minutes every day to look up and enjoy the natural beauty of wherever they are. There will be a petition on the White House “We the People” site that anyone can requesting that all social media be banned in Ely and any other place of natural beauty.
The festivities kicked off the Chamber’s major marketing push
of the year and follows in what has become a tradition of off-the-wall, largely successful attempts to gain publicity and promote the region.
In 2008, some were fooled on April 1 into believing that Canada attempted to annex Ely. The following April Fools Day, Ely announced a fictitious bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics and in 2010 there was talk that Dairy Queen had acquired naming rights to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Minneapolis marketing firm Giraffe and its associated public relations wing Owl is behind the latest attempt, and it’s funded by the Chamber - via proceeds from the area’s three percent lodging tax - in an effort to promote Ely to potential visitors across the Midwest and nation.
Linda Fryer, administrative director of the Ely Chamber, said Thursday (see related story) that this year’s spoof may have been the most successful yet.
Those behind the campaign say they’re trying to promote Ely in a unique, out-of-the-box way.
Ely promoters are hoping those in the upper Midwest will stay closer to home for their vacations, and they are touting Ely as a stress-free location with a number of draws, from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to attractions including the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center.