The Dolly-Levi.com campaign: Anatomy of an April Fool’s prank

By: Jason Clarke

If you missed it over the weekend, you might consider yourself one of the lucky ones. On Sunday, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival announced that it was partnering with a new dating website called Dolly-Levi.com.

The plan for this campaign started back in January when we looked for a unique way to promote The Matchmaker. The idea of a modern day dating service provided by Dolly Levi herself was one of the first ideas that came to the group. It was critically important for us to create not only a parody video, but also a webpage to drive people towards and ultimately to finish off the prank.

Someone who is familiar with the play The Matchmaker might have caught on to the joke fairly early on. The name alone would have sounded some alarm bells, but a keen eye or ear would pick up on some familiar themes from the play. Even the testimonials are from some of the characters!

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The website (designed and programmed in house) was meant to deliver our “April Fool’s!” as well as offer up some great info about the play, character bios and a chance to win free tickets to this great production! Visitors are able to upload a photo and a story about their perfect match (be it a man, woman, friend, a pair of shoes, a pet…) and then, on the last Wednesday of each month during our season, we’ll select a lucky pair of lovers to send to a performance! If you haven’t already, submit your photo and story for a chance to win.

From the start there was no doubt that this campaign had to be launched on April Fool’s Day, following in the footsteps of so many other great corporate pranks like Google, WestJet and ThinkGeek.

Twenty-four hours and a lot of laughs later, we were thrilled that our fans joined in the fun.  Chris Abraham, the director of The Matchmaker, and cast member Josh Epstein were signing up for a date, and we even had an employees threaten to leave the Festival to join Dolly-Levi.com! Garnering over 600 views on YouTube, over 20,000 impressions on Twitter and generating 100 likes, comments and shares on Facebook in one day was exciting!

The biggest lesson that came out of this campaign was to plan ahead, trust your brand and not to be afraid to have a little fun with people. A good joke can create great conversation in the online world and really help to bring awareness and exposure to your cause, campaign or organization.

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