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January 31, 2007


In listening to this morning's new coverage the term "generation gap" was thrown out on my local NPR station and two local news stations. I'm wondering if it really is a generation "gap" or just subjective justification of the events. Neither side appears to be budging, and the only one who's shown any ability to assimilate the facts is Turner who announced plans to cover the costs associated with this entire stupid event.

Can we agree that all involved were stupid? "Artist" idiots putting ANYTHING with visible wires on a highway support or bridge structure, marketing morons who didn't bother to call the police until hours after it caused extensive emergency response, snarled traffic and trapped people on highways, the Transit Police mouthpiece who referred to the first device as "consistent with an IED device", local media who ran with the overreaction ball, politicos who postured.

Turner Broadcasting may be the only ones who come out of this looking okay.

DA, it may have STARTED lame, but this promotion got the Secret Ingredient -- martyrdom -- and now look at it:

There's a divide over reactions to this thing. For the "pro" side, see BoingBoing, YTMND, SomethingAwful, and Fark. For the "anti" side, see Fox News. I know which side *I* wanna be on :)

PS. Yes I am indulging this thing by being snarky, and I won't cry any hot tears if Turner gets hit where it hurts, in the wallet, over this. But that doesn't change the fact that I think this is a story about DHS and the media, not a story about marketing.

Honestly I'm not a huge fan of Guerilla marketing. Most if it is crap—with a few exceptions. Much of it is a desperate attempt to catch our attention because we have shut off the world around us with iPod headphones creating micro cocoons as we navigate our way through the world. And of course we are immune to the daily deluge of traditional advertising.

wow. that was deep.

Anyway, despite the end result, I thought the marketing stunt itself was lame. And the fact that it was around for so long before anyone even noticed proves that.

Can't... stop... spamming... Lori's... blog...

1) Actually, I think this WILL win a lot of new viewers for ATHF. That doesn't mean that Turner should have done this, of course, or that this could have been planned this way. But ATHF has been martyred, and just look at the results:

2) Everyone agrees that this was at best a lunkheaded thing for two performance artists to do. For one thing, the art projects they are keying off of (Google for "Space Invaders grafitti") don't involve electronics. And the ones that DO involve electronics (Google for "grafitti research lab") try to keep their devices small and innocuous, so they don't get mistaken for something dangerous. GRL takes these guys to task for making something so big that they were scary to the feds.

Turner, however, has no excuse. How did this get out of scoping? They mention that these things have been in other cities for a few weeks. I'm surprised this hasn't happened other places. Geocachers have been doing this kind of stuff for years, and it's common to put all SORTS of disclaimer stickers all over everything.

That being said, I think that the DHS should add "Guerilla Marketing?" to their Tactical Weird Device Purpose Checklist. Perhaps they should have a Tactical 19-Year-Old deployed that can say: "Dude, that's a Shepherd Fairey poster" before they shut down the city.

I certainly don't think we should be LAUGHING at homeland security (nor do I identify with the college posse) -- and I completely agree that it's dunderheaded in the extreme to strap "something weird with wires" to a highway underpass (you're referencing the Mission Impossible stunt there, and rightly so.)

My point, insofar as I have one at all, is that there seem to be two points of view on this: the "ZOMG those idiot marketers shut down my city GET 'EM!" view, and the "ha ha ha ATHF is the bomb, DHS are ignorant fools" view. As grownup marketers, this polarizing reaction is going to tell us a lot about the divide.

For one thing, the Gen Y crowd seems to be on the side of the corporates (for once), given that the "LED throwy" technique used is a favorite of theirs. We may see a couple more whipsaw changes back and forth, depending I think on what Peter Berdovsky has to say for himself.

John: It is easy hours later for the college posse to laugh at the emergency response "it's just a lite brite" ha ha - but what kind of idiot straps something to a highway underpass? We weren't there - what if all that was visible was something weird with wires? Don't you make a call to the people who look into strange things with wires? I don't want to throw down all political - but I personally (not in any way reflecting Digitas' opinion) feel like a certain group of political leaders punk'd my country.

Well, according to BoingBoing, the local firm you're looking for is Interference Inc. But let's be clear -- your city got punk'd by Homeland Security, not by marketers. Those signs have been around for two weeks.

/me ducks.

John: Yeah, I too would have allowed the Captain Jack Sparrow defense since my initial thought when they blew up the first device was "probably a light fixture that fell off the big dig". Then my husband offered up "MIT pranksters" - but then multiple emergency response teams locked up the city, the Charles River and the subway lines - and then Captain Jack defense falls flat - it's get out the pitchfork time.

Jeff: I'm buying the pitchforks in bulk tonight - I can't wait to find out who punk'd my city. Bring out the stocks!

From the WSJ online edition (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB117027853805894089.html?mod=home_whats_news_us) (reg. req'd.):

But the Cartoon Network says it believes the devices were part of a promotion by the Time Warner Inc. unit.

The Cartoon Network said in a statement: "The 'packages' in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger. They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim's animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

"They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards. We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger."

It went "haywire," said Cartoon Network spokeswoman Shirley Powell. A source familiar with the planned promotion said the Cartoon Network hired a local Boston marketing company to do the work.

So who did this locally? If anyone knows, please spill the beans.....

I was going to use the Captain Jack Sparrow defense on Turner's behalf "You're the worst pirate I've ever heard of!" "Ah, but you HAVE heard of me", until I cottoned to the fact that you were late for work because of it.

So I guess there IS such a thing as bad publicity.

Still and all, I don't think 100% of the blame lies with misguided marketing ninnies. Doesn't ANYONE at Homeland Security watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force? Sheesh!

From the CNN article:

"I once interviewed a homeland security consulant who claimed that ordinary citizens armed with wi-fi laptops, smart cellphones, and the like would be far more effective at responding to terrorist attacks than any governmental organization. Tonight I have seen the proof of that argument."

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