Dunce Long story short…(read about it here or  Download adageTurner.pdf here) The Turner Network and a New York marketing firm Interference launched  a 10-city outdoor marketing campaign for its film "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres" involving small circuit boxes labeled with the characters scattered across the streets of Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia.

The boxes have lights and wires sticking out of them.  Can you say "bomb?"

They shut down a huge section of Boston because, again…can you say "bomb scare?"  Boston’s bomb squad was scrambling around the city, detonating and removing the devices.

I am sure some people will applaud the disruptive ploy.  They’ll point to the fact that we’re all writing about it, it played on major network news and the name of the movie is top of mind.

Frankly — I don’t care.  Somewhere along the way, we have to put ethics ahead of getting our clients some buzz. 

In our post 9-11 world, this gimmick was just  irresponsible.  You do not throw a city into panic mode to promote a movie.  You do not tie up valuable, life-saving resources on a stunt.  You do not earn buzz by creating fear and worry.

And, while others will pass this off as "oh, we had no idea it would create this reaction"  I think that’s bull.  You would have to be an adult with the IQ of of 13 to not consider that your antics might trigger exactly what happened in Boston.

Today, I am embarrassed for our profession.  We look like what we are often accused of being — slick manipulators who don’t care how we get our message out.

For another take, read Ann Handley’s post over at Marketing Profs Daily Fix.

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5 comments on “Duh!

  1. Mark True says:

    It doesn’t take a lot of thought to make something work in this kind of situation.

    Our company was right in the middle of a large, expensive direct resonse effort when the first few letters full of powdery substances were hitting the streets. The piece was a colorful box about the size of two cereal boxes back to back. Rather than send them out inside of brown boxes, we chose to shrink wrap them and affix the label so that everyone could see what it was.

    Double good: we sent pieces to all the contacts at each company all at once – these were some large companies – so there was a bit of an event when the mail room folks walked around with up to 30 of these brightly color boxes stacked on their mail cart. The added bonus was a small, nerf-type baskeetball and hoop on the inside to support our message and I’ sure that even those who didn’t receive one wanted one and got to play with their cube mate’s.

    In only takes a little extra brain power to work around the obvious barriers.

  2. Josh A says:

    Ignorance has hit a new level. Something out of the ordinary appears and all of a sudden it is a risk to life and limb. As adaptable as the human race is made out to be, human’s true nature is reflected during incidents such as these.

    A similar reaction happened when creative kids decided to make blocks from the video game Super Mario Bros. and hang them around town.

    “Post 911” is no excuse for being ignorant and stupid. It’s amazing people around the world don’t cringe at every light in the sky in reaction to the meteor that killed the dinosaurs and altered prehistoric life forever.

    Get a sense of humor and start living life to the fullest… you only get one chance. The next time you come back, you might be a chicken.

  3. Cam — thanks for the alignment. As you can see, not everyone agrees with us.


  4. Mark,

    I know several companies who had to modify 3D mailings after the “powder” letters hit.

    When you are smart enough to react and adapt your idea — you communicate more than your core message. You also communicate that you are a responsible organization that respects its audience.

    Well worth the extra effort!


    PS — you have any of those hoops left??

  5. Josh,

    I certainly respect your right to have an opinion that differs from mine. I am sure you aren’t the only one.

    I don’t think its ignorant or stupid to object to the incredible expense that Boston no doubt incurred as a result of the stunt.

    Nor do I think being respectful of your audience is a foolhardy thing. I am all for taking a risk and standing out from the crowd. But, for our clients, I advocate doing it in a way that puts the company in a good light, not one that stirs up this sort of outcry.

    So on this one, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I appreciate you adding your voice to the conversation.


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