TBS Publicity Stunt Bombs in Boston

05 February 2007

BOSTON, Mass: 'Guerrilla marketing', the pompous moniker applied by desperate marketers to feeble publicity stunts, was for once aptly designated when a promotional wheeze dreamed-up last week by Turner Broadcasting Systems' Cartoon Network spectacularly misfired.

Much of Boston experienced gridlock, with subway, river and highway traffic halted, and many citizens near to panic after two lackeys from New York guerrilla marketing agency Interference sited forty blinking boxes at various key points around the city. Unsurprisingly in these jittery times, the devices were mistaken for bombs.

Intended to promote the Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force TV show, the suspect boxes were an innocent - if stupid - gimmick.

Nonetheless, Mayor Thomas Menino is decidedly unamused by the stunt and is energetically armtwisting TBS to compensate the city for the emergency costs incurred.

The company and the two hapless agency lackeys are also facing a criminal investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general.

Opines Kelly O'Keefe, director of executive education at the Virginia Commonwealth University Adcenter "This has to rank as the most significant blunder in the world of guerrilla advertising.

"Most people who are involved in guerrilla marketing are very responsible advertisers and do responsible things. This is an irrational act. It is really guerrilla marketing gone awry and it is inexcusable."

But John Palumbo, founder-ceo of New York consultancy BigHeads Network believes TBS is crying all the way to the bank. "I wonder how upset they are about it. They have gotten more publicity than I've seen for a campaign."

Interference, however, could be badly damaged by the stunt, Palumbo opines. "For the agency, it makes them look extremely irresponsible. They are going under the microscope in a big way."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online. additional content by WARC staff