‘Rick and Morty’ showed us what its got and we couldn’t believe it.
The greatest trick Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim ever pulled was making you think the first episode of the new season of Rick and Morty wasn’t going to premiere yet. While marketing amateurs are content with generating outlandish headlines and sassing Twitter’s user base on April 1st, Rick and Morty managed to do the impossible and surprise its audience.
On April 1st Rick and Morty diverged from the internet’s general population of online marketers by posting something true that was immediately considered false. While most sites were posting fake announcements, Rick and Morty’s official Twitter account announced that the first episode of season three was going to loop until midnight on Adult Swim’s website.
In October 2015 the last episode of Rick and Morty left fans with a cliff hanger. Rick left his family on a tiny planet and turned himself in to the galactic government. The new episode was a welcome surprise that was, understandably, met with some disbelief online.
Contrast Rick and Morty proving its comedic genius by posting The Truth on a day of trickery with Gore Verbinski’s Cure for Wellness posting fake news in an age when fake news generates real consequences. As our Jake Orthwein pointed out, the use of fake news as a marketing strategy utilizes a damaging trend to push one’s brand. It isn’t ethical, and isn’t clever.
Unlike 20th Century Fox’s fake news fail, Rick and Morty demonstrated what can be achieved when marketing and creative teams understand how to engage with their audience. Like a good comic, Rick and Morty can read the room and give an audience what it wants. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim knows it has a crowd that likes referential humor and social media. These fans know to steer clear of some social media accounts on a day of hand-buzzers and bold lies. They see the manipulation coming. So when Rick and Morty decided to stream their first episode of season three, they not only told the truth, but did so in the form of a good-natured prank which elicited a good round of laughter. It played with its audience’s expectations like a good joke should. Whereas Cure for Wellness died on stage, Rick and Morty killed it.
In a way, Rick and Morty telling the truth highlights something larger and more sinister about our everyday online lives. We don’t expect the truth on April Fools Day, but post-fake news, we are starting not expect the truth ever. That should not be the case. Playing with people’s faith in the truth is what April Fools Day is about. Without that baseline of truth-telling having value in our culture, lying loses shock value. Rick and Morty brought back truth on a day we needed a reminder that the truth matters.
In case you missed the first episode of Rick and Morty’s third season, Cartoon Network will be re-airing the episode throughout the week at 10 pm. The rest of season three will debut at a yet to be determined date this summer. Also, for those wondering about that Mulan promotional Szechwan sauce, McDonald’s gave Rick and Morty a shoutout on Twitter, but no plans to bring the sauce back have hit the web. Here’s to hoping the live action Mulan promotion includes some McDonalds cross marketing.