Marketing Darwin Award Nominee

Cape Cod Times: Breaking News Updates
“BOSTON – At least nine electronic devices, planted at bridges and other parts of Boston as part of a marketing campaign for a late-night cartoon, threw a scare into the city Wednesday.

The reports forced the temporary shutdowns of Interstate 93 out of the city, a key inbound roadway, a bridge between Boston and Cambridge, and a portion of the Charles River but the devices were quickly determined not to be explosive.”

As Brian says in the comments — as a viral campaign you couldn’t get a much better result than paralyzing a city for an afternoon. The details are this: illuminated LED signs pointing to a Turner cartoon — Aqua Teen Hunger Force — have been up around the city for sometime. Under bridges, on overpasses, etc. The Boston Globe this morning has an interesting sidebar which asks the question: is viral marketing a generational thing? One generation’s viral baffles another?

“The episode exposed a wide generational gulf between government officials who reacted as if the ads might be bombs and 20-somethings raised on hip ads for Snapple, Apple, and Google who instantly recognized the images for what they were: a viral marketing campaign.

Among many in the young generation, reaction to the scare was smirking. “Repeat after me, authorities. L-E-D. Not I-E-D. Get it?” one 29-year-old blogger from Malden wrote on his website, contrasting light emitting diodes with improvised explosive devices.”

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Marketing Darwin Award Nominee”

  1. The financial impact was somewhere around $750,000 It would not surprise me if that after having little or no response after these “items” had already been up for two weeks, that perhaps the guerilla marketing team from New York that was hired for this actually called it in to see if they could get some publicity.

    I don’t know how much money a company like TBS earmarks for marketing a movie based on a late night cartoon, but if it is less than 1 million, they may have just saved 250K as it seems the city of Boston is said to be giong after TBS for financial damages.

    They are either very stupid or very clever.

  2. It was interesting in the context of how Boston reacted vs. other US cities. What would the reaction have been in Beijing? in Baghdad?

  3. I see stories like this on the news and am just stunned by the apparant lack of common sense in the reactions. I would imagine the bomb squad guys are well trained, and would think they could quickly recognize what these things were, especially after the first one. But they appeared to follow process and “detonated” them around the city. SOP to “disrupt” the device by adding their own explosive. Does not the city take some responsibility for how it reacted and the associated costs and impact to the city?

    If we prove ourselves to only be capable of following SOP rules of engagement, don’t we then make ourselves bigger exploitation target for those that don’t follow a set process and can adapt?


  4. Frigtard guerilla marketing can and will backfire.
    While sitting at Demo I read a crawler feed about this and smiled then shuddered thinking about some of the things that entrepreneurs have done at Demo and how I had been saved by the providence of time.

  5. “I see stories like this on the news and am just stunned by the apparant lack of common sense in the reactions. I would imagine the bomb squad guys are well trained, and would think they could quickly recognize what these things were, especially after the first one.”

    have none of the police/bomb squad/etc actually seen aqua teen hunger force? maybe it’s just distance, but i really can’t see how everyone went nuts over this.

  6. As I was saying before I inadvertently posted with a fat right hand pinky.

    Mark Eppley of Travelling Software Fame was at DemoMobile, gave a great Demo of a new product that had a timer feature and closed his Demo with an onstage kabooom when the timer hit 0. i was a little surprised but the audience was dead quiet.
    h this was at 9:10 a.m. on 9/10/2001. I still shudder when I think of this, since I had him sked for a slot on 9/11 at about the same time.
    The other big Demo gurerilla blunder was someone giving squirt guns and miniature swiss army knives at Demoafter 9/11. you should have seen the trash cans at the Palm Springs airport. better yet, i wish I had taken a pix.

    Toastie Oatie OHs,
    Avo Cadaski aka juan
    in Escondido

  7. The risks are obvious as “humor” and “cutting edge” quickly becomes “homeland security”. That it took them two weeks to get to this point is scary in itself. That no one can really distinguish between a bomb and a harmless lite-brite also doesn’t give much comfort.

    Then again, a few jail terms for pranksters will quickly put an end to all this and we won’t have to hear about it anymore.

    Young, hip marketers in prison will learn new meaning to the term, “long tail.”

  8. Reminds me of the time I was doing a briefing for IBM in Chicago about four years ago. A customer in the audience asked me why IBM felt the need to spray paint ads on Chicago’s sidewalks.

    Turns out that IBM had paid some PR/AD agency to paint the Peace, Love, and Linux symbol on the sidewalks of Chicago, NYC, and a couple of other cities. The castch was that the paint was supposed to be temporary and be gone with the next rain…… THe contractors obviously didn’t get that part of the memo….. IBM had to pay to have the markings removed…. Still, they got a lot of press for it, and the Linux community loved it.

    Ok – so it’s not the same as a terrorist bomb plot scare…. but it follows the same path of poor execution.

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