Microsoft leads the way in banning April Fools’ Day pranks

By Tom Warren

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Everyone hates April Fools’ Day, and Microsoft is taking a stand against its own corporate pranks. Microsoft’s marketing chief Chris Capossela has warned all employees to not participate in the process of annoying hoaxes on Monday. In an internal memo, obtained and verified by The Verge, Capossela explains that “data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles.” He encourages all teams inside Microsoft not to do any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts.

“I appreciate that people may have devoted time and resources to these activities, but I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day,” says Capossela. That’s probably a safe bet, as we’ve seen some April Fools’ Day pranks backfire spectacularly in the past. Google was forced to apologize for adding Despicable Me minions into emails and muting threads a few years ago, causing email havoc for Gmail users. Microsoft has also participated in many April Fools’ Day pranks over the year, including an MS-DOS mobile for Windows Phone and Google insults.

Microsoft’s April Fools’ Day ban comes just as the company resurrected its Clippy Office assistant before killing it off a day later. Microsoft workers transformed the paperclip into an animated pack of stickers for the company’s Teams chat software, but a source tells The Verge that the “brand police” inside the company shut it down a day later.

April Fools’ Day is a 500-year tradition that we can probably live without, but it persists each and every year regardless. Microsoft is clearly trying to lead the way and change that from a tech perspective, so we’ll have to see if the same message has reached Google, Amazon, Snap, T-Mobile, and the many other tech companies that participated in the annual prank day last year.

Here’s Capossela’s full internal memo:

Hey everyone,

It’s that time of year when tech companies try to show their creativity with April Fools’ Day stunts. Sometimes the outcomes are amusing and sometimes they’re not. Either way, data tells us these stunts have limited positive impact and can actually result in unwanted news cycles.

Considering the headwinds the tech industry is facing today, I’m asking all teams at Microsoft to not do any public-facing April Fools’ Day stunts. I appreciate that people may have devoted time and resources to these activities, but I believe we have more to lose than gain by attempting to be funny on this one day.

Please forward to your teams and internal partners to ensure people are aware of the ask to stand down on external April Fools’ Day activities.