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April Fools' pranks abound, while new terminal is aground

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THE SEARCH WORLD WAS BUSY LAST WEEK PLOTTING ELABORATE April Fool's Day pranks, mostly taking the form of bogus new-product announcements. There were at least 28 Google-related hoaxes, some perpetrated from within the Googleplex itself, including “Gmail Custom Time,” a tool that lets e-mailers predate e-mails in order never to miss a deadline again. The feature “utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality,” Google explained on the Gmail site. View it here: http://mail.google.com/mail/help/customtime/index.html. But the most elaborate prank may have been Google's announcement of Project Virgle, its joint venture with Virgin Group's Sir Richard Branson to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. The prank included a several-Web-pages-deep outline (www.google.com/ virgle/index.html) of the Mars settlement, with maps and a 100-year plan. Richard Branson created a YouTube video (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=gWCQYcPlUng) announcing the Mars project and even appeared on “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” to announce the plan, straightfaced, never tipping the joke. Ferguson played along. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page also created a 58-second YouTube video (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=PmSdy_9blB4) announcing the project. “This is the biggest endeavor we've ever undertaken at Google and at Virgin,” Brin said in the video. “We're going to select the very first settlers of the planet Mars,” Page said. —Carol Krol TALK ABOUT A CRASH LANDING. IN WHAT WAS to be a powerful PR blitz, British Airways has postponed its upcoming ad campaign for London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5. Using television, newspaper and the Internet, the Bartle Bogle Hegarty-produced campaign was to showcase the new terminal. However, the $8.7 billion facility has suffered alarming setbacks since its March 27 debut. Hundreds of flight cancellations have occurred due to computer malfunctions within the terminal's innovative, 11-mile-long baggage conveyor system. Twenty-eight thousand bags have now been separated from their owners, almost doubling original estimates by the airline. Escalator, elevator and paid-parking-ticket-issuing machine breakdowns have also plagued the terminal. “Our priority is to resolve these problems and deliver the level of service our customers expect from us,” Alan Proud, a British Airways spokesman said. Sixty-eight million travelers pass through Heathrow annually, which has a 45 million capacity, attesting to the airport's reputation as being dirty and congested. British Airways competitors American Airlines, BMI, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic have experienced significant spikes in reservations since the T5 problems. The multimedia campaign will be suspended until later this year. Proud added, “We are confident that it is the right campaign and will be as successful then as we thought it would be now.” —Tanya Meyer LOOKING FOR A SMALL WAY TO MAKE A BIG IMPRESSION WITH CLIENTS? How about passing around a dish of M&M's candy, complete with your company's name or logo printed on them? Who doesn't love “the milk chocolate that melts in your mouth, not in your hand”? Through a promotional partnership with Newsweek, Mars Inc.'s M&M's brand candy is offering My M&M's for Business, a personalized way for businesses to connect with customers. Businesses can order the personalized candy at www.mymms.com/newsweek, with a choice of up to 22 colors, their company name, logo or custom message (thanks for your biz!). Now that's a sweet deal. —Kate Maddox
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