Skip to main content

How Taco Bell's 1996 April Fools Prank Could Save The Economy

Did you realize that Nike's $23.5 billion in revenue last year puts it ahead of most countries annual GDP? You know what we should be telling them if they want to throw a billion or two of that our way to put a swoosh on the Washington Monument? Just do it.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

In 1996, the Venn diagrams of people that care about national landmarks and people that care about the latest iteration of Doritos Locos Taco intersected when Taco Bell pulled off one hell of an April Fool's Prank.

On April 1, the company that wants you to prank mas took out a full page ad in six major American newspapers (The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and USA Today) announcing that the fast food chain had purchased the Liberty Bell. The text of the ad read:

In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country's most historic treasures. It will now be called the "Taco Liberty Bell" and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country's debt.

The home of the Mountain Dew Baja Blast compared the purchase to the adoption of highways by corporations, arguing that it was simply "going one step further by purchasing one of the country's greatest historic treasures."

Almost immediately, a swarm of people called both Taco Bell's headquarters and the National Park Service in Philadelphia to find out if the Bell had really been sold. Park Service spokeswoman Elaine Sevy said, "We were shocked. We had no idea this was happening. We have just been getting hammered with phone calls from the public."

And you know why that is? Because everyone realized how plausible this scenario is.

And you know why that is? Because it makes sense.

As Number Two tried to explain to Dr. Evil, there is no world anymore, it's only corporations.

Did you realize that Nike's $23.5 billion in revenue last year puts it ahead of most countries annual GDP? You know what we should be telling them if they want to throw a billion or two of that our way to put a swoosh on the Washington Monument?

Just do it.

Detroit, the city that Monopoly hated, is getting told that they might not be able to sell off all those "priceless" pieces of art in their museum. And John Fund at American Spectator already offered up the idea of selling the whole city to Canada, reminding us, "Bold ideas are often ridiculed or scorned in the beginning."

But what if Belle Isle Park became the Taco Belle Island Park ("Park Mas")?

What if it was the McDonald's Golden Arch?

Would that really make you like the actual arch any less?

Fans of Louisville basketball don't even think twice anymore when telling their friends they have great seats inside the KFC Yum Center (occasionally lovingly referred to as "The Bucket").


And Eastern Mountain Sports already has a deal with New Hampshire's state parks, with one state official explaining, "People come to state parks for a very natural outdoor experience and you don't want to commercialize it. On the other hand, budgets are tight."

Which is why we shouldn't wag our fingers disapprovingly when we hear stories like Baltimore's Mayor asking the city’s spending board to approve $46,000 in consultant fees to appraise the city's historic sites.

And how about we celebrate forward thinkers like then-Rep. Cliff Steans (R-FL), who in a town hall meeting stated “We don’t need any more national parks in this country” and that we need to “actually sell off some of our national parks.”

The Phillip Morris Great Smoky Mountains.

Kind of has a nice ring to it, right?

Or how about we keep calling New York City "The Big Apple" but we all have to just kind of know that we're talking about the iPhone-pimping one?

Adam Silver, the new commissioner for the NBA, has already gone on record saying that he believes NBA jerseys will have corporate sponsors' names on them in the next 5 years: "It just creates that much more of an opportunity for our marketing partners to get that much closer to our fans and to our players."

And it's about time we as a country start taking advantage of our underutilized marketing opportunities too.