Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who's Terrorizing Whom?

For a variety of reasons, I'm not one to get particularly political. To be honest, the same can be said of most of my generation. Every now and then, something happens that raises the ere of even the least political-minded citizens. With all of the turmoil in the world, perhaps it's surprising that last week's guerrilla marketing campaign gone bad was enough to do the trick.

The Cartoon Network and it's ad agency, Interference Inc., created magnetic light-up signs featuring one of the characters for the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The signs were basically relatively flat versions of a Lite-Brite and just about the size of a piece of notebook paper with some battery-powered LEDs protruding out. After notifying local law enforcement agencies of their plans, they posted the signs throughout 10 major US cites. After resting comfortably on display for several days, this happened in Boston on January 31:

Immediately, suspects were sought. However, finding them wasn't very challenging, since they had already posted video of their exploits on YouTube.

Inquires were made. Fingers were pointed. News coverage continued. Politicians got involved. Millions of dollars of taxpayer money was wasted. Commuters were inconvenienced. A full-on tizzy ensued.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino blamed the entire series of events on "corporate greed". He was ready to fight for his citizens. He was ready for blood. He was ready to use this opportunity to earn another term or a different office.

Eventually, a television network executive stepped down.

"Somebody had to pay," Menino said in an interview. "He's the one who made all the decisions, and he didn't do anything to react to the concerns. The resignation should really serve as a message that these sorts of marketing tactics should not and will not be tolerated."

Let me begin by saying that I fully understand that these are troubled times in which we live--we certainly do a wonderful job of reminding ourselves of that as frequently as possible. Placing any sort of foreign object anywhere near a city street is questionable at best. Nevertheless, I resoundingly question who is truly to blame for any sort of terror instilled upon the people of New England. Was it the group who posted advertisements, the administration that jumped the gun and called in the cavalry, or the media that fueled the fire?

The truth is, all three played a role in this marketing debacle turned Inquisition, yet it seems only the television network and their agency are bearing the brunt of the blame. In the meantime, government officials are using their complete miscalculation and embarrassing failure in communication as an opportunity to convince their citizens that they're being well taken care of. Even now, the media continues to report on this story by describing the ads as "Hoax Devices", though they were never had anything to do with bombs until the media announced that they were.

My stance is this. The advertisements didn't terrorize anyone (aside from perhaps one paranoid citizen who phoned it in). It was the politicians and the media that did. Will they have to pay?

1 comment:

Short attention spans? said...

Nice post Mitch. I enjoyed reading it. That video from the Fox network was quite interesting. It sounds as thought those anchors were about to hyper ventilate.

Sensationalism has no boundaries in today's major media landscape. News anchors/reporters or whatever you want to call them (certainly not journalists in the purist sense of the word) so many times take the fastest, cheapest route to try and drum up fear - beacause they believe fear keeps people tuned in and that is ultimately what they are after. Turn on the news tonight and see how they talk about the impending snow. Youwould think that we were in for World War Three, when in reality we might get a few inches.