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February 02, 2007

Hey, Boston... Up Yours!

Storydevices_blurPerhaps it's a good thing the tactics employed by Interference on behalf of Cartoon Networks' Aqua Teen Hunger Force made their "billboards" look ambiguously like "bombboards" and caused such a ruckus, because it has made nearly everyone fail to notice -- Hey, that son of a .... is flipping us off!

At only 32, I don't consider myself a fogey or a stick-in-the-mud, and as a former Marine, I have seen, heard, and used my share of vulgar language, but it seems to me that this deployment crossed a line that marketers should be more careful when crossing - if they have to cross it at all.

Now, I know the point of the board isn't to flip off Boston in the same sense you or I would to Boston for being in a state that heralds Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, and/or Mitt Romney. These days, someone giving the bird  is "just" a sign of defiance, an expression of attitude and perhaps a little antiestablishment. For some reason this impresses certain people.

But even if they used posters for the same effect, they'd have reached a lot of people who are not so impressed by the gesture as their intended audience. Sure, you built awareness for the program, but at what cost?

If you think I'm being a stick-in-the-mud, let me know... I'll accept that. But before you do, try a little experiment. Walk into your boss's office. Stand in front of his or her desk and "defiantly" flip the bird in your boss's direction.

If you want to make it an apples-to-apples comparison, make sure you're ambiguously dressed like a suicide bomber when you do it. Let me know how it goes.

I doubt Cartoon Network has heard the last of this. - Cam Beck

P.S. If you've not heard of this event and want to learn more, some of my favorite bloggers have already posted articles on it from their own perspectives: Ann, Lewis, CK, Drew, Stephen, and Jonathan. They're all interesting reads. Check them out.

Update: Seth has also now weighed in on the subject with a keen insight you might expect from him.


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Aqua Teen Hunger Force bombed in Boston yesterday, shutting down a city and bringing out emergency responders to the tune of an estimated $500,000. Marketing genius or marketing stupidity. A little of both actually. [Read More]


Funny, Cam... I'm liberal on a lot of issues, and on this issue I feel like the conservative in the room. In other words, I agree with your characterization that they crossed the line with this one.

The thing I wonder (as have my colleagues, it's not an original thought) is how soon before some legislator gets it in his head to try to enact "anti-guerilla marketing" legislation specifically with citing the Boston chaos.

I mean, everyone hates terrorists... everyone hates marketing, right?!Perfect platform to gain some politcal career momentum!

Power is a funny thing, Ann... Once a politician has it, he is unlikely to relinquish it. I would urge caution at those tempted to overreact. Turner is making financial amends, and Interference is facing other charges for laws they already broke.

I don't see any reason to enact new laws when the current ones are being properly enforced - especially since adults seem to be running the show again at Turner.

That doesn't mean someone won't try to score some political points with this. To the contrary, recent (and ancient, for that matter) experience tells us someone will, should it become likely it will make a difference at the polls - and thus keep the politicians considering it in power.

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