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?