Thursday, February 01, 2007

Boston Bombshell

A marketing stunt pulled off by the Cartoon Network and New York-based marketing company Interference Inc. went haywire this week when almost 40 blinking electronic signs promoting the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force were mistaken for bombs.

The signs, slightly reminiscent of and perhaps inspired by the Space Invaders tile graffiti, raised quite a ruckus. Law enforcement agencies closed down highways, bridges, and part of the Charles River. Two men were jailed and later released in connection with the stunt, which was replicated in nine other cities to no hubbub.

Community leaders in Beantown showed little sense of humor in response to the campaign. My favorite remark was made by Congressman Ed Markey, quoted in a MediaDailyNews article: "Scaring an entire region, tying up the T and major roadways, and forcing first responders to spend 12 hours chasing down trinkets instead of terrorists is marketing run amok. ... Whoever thought this up needs to find another job."

Personally, I think the use of electronics -- and the urban installation approach -- is intriguing. But it seems the stunt backfired. If the campaign was intended to inspire word of mouth marketing, it seems limited to bad mouthing -- even if the too-proper Bostonians overreacted.

(On another note, does Frylock look like Jim Mahfood or what?)


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