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Update: Cartoon Marketing Ignites Bomb Scare [VIDEO]

Pranksters give finger to the media...
 
 
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Attempts at buzz marketing are nearly always lame, awkward, and obvious; that's about the worst (or, perhaps, best) that can be said of them, most of the time. Rare indeed is the word-of-mouth campaign that triggers bomb scares, panics a city, and shuts down a commercial district. Years from now, people will remember the day that Boston was attacked by Aqua Teen Hunger Force:

A guerrilla marketing campaign for a cartoon show about a box of french fries and his milkshake pal set off a scare that nearly shut down Boston's commercial district yesterday, as bomb squads closed highways and two bridges in search of what turned out to be magnetic-light versions of the cartoon characters.

Turner Broadcasting, parent company of the Cartoon Network, said the small electronic circuit boards, which hang from girders and bridges, are part of a 10-city marketing campaign for the animated late-night television show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." Such guerrilla ad campaigns seek to place products in unexpected corners and count on those who spot the characters to "get" the gag. [...]

Boston and Massachusetts officials were not amused. A train passenger spied the first magnetic object, which looked like circuit boards with protruding wires, attached to a girder under Interstate 93 in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. A police bomb squad responded and blew up the device, leading to the shutdown of a railway station and the highway. For a while, the Coast Guard blocked off a section of the Charles River.

While this publicity stunt by Turner Broadcasting will rank among the legendary boneheaded business decisions of all time - and may justifiably cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars if the city launches a civil suit against it - the fact remains that any pimply kid could have identified the patterned image of a cartoon character on the devices and so exposed the whole thing as a prank. But there are no pimply kids on the Boston police force, apparently. More's the pity.

Addendum: Note the contrast with the Seattle reaction to the "Mooninite attack." (Via Chris at Cynical C-Blog.)

Evan Adds:

These characters have been in 10 cities for 2-3 weeks?

The question then becomes: Who's really indicted here, a guerilla marketing stunt or Boston's response units? Many thousands, if not millions have passed these lightbox characters without alarm, yet Boston is shut down.

Here's an image of the lightbox (it's giving the finger):

Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast in the late 30s touched off American collective hysteria as well, but I find it interesting that neither NY nor DC, the two cities that have actually experienced a terrorist attack had any issues with the campaign.

I can only surmise that many found it cheezy or, perhaps, just lost among the myriad other official and unofficial guerilla marketing campaigns dragged across our vistas daily.

In the clip above...

Philip Barron is a St. Louis writer and author of the blog Waveflux.

 
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