Yesterday, a marketing stunt went awry. This should not be news — marketing stunts do, after all, go awry with alarming regularity. This one is noteworthy because it shut down an entire city. Or major parts thereof (I confess that my knowledge of Boston’s geography is less than ideal; I can find the river and consider that an accomplishment).
Apparently, three weeks ago, give or take, electronic signs were placed around Boston and other major cities to promote the weird TV show Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Yesterday, Boston noticed. In lieu of research or thoughtful response, authorities promptly determined that this was the work of terrorists (a theory about marketers long held by thinking people) and took appropriate action. Heck, they’ve even arrested the individuals hired to place the signs. Naturally, the ones who did the hiring remain free to strike fear in the hearts of residents of other major cities.
Setting aside the fact that this campaign has inadvertently succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, what in the world is going on here? Various news accounts have noted that these electronic devices were found in other cities around the nation. They’ve been discussed on various blogs as people have noticed them. And now the city of Boston is being ridiculed for its overreaction to a viral marketing campaign.
Do I believe we need to be vigilant in this world? Absolutely. Vigilance is key, but, I dunno, this reaction seems out of proportion to the crime. This type of viral marketing campaign cannot, apparently, be tolerated in a post-9/11 world. The question becomes, what are the limits? With the logic, one of the greatest programming stunts of our electronic information age, The War of the Worlds would be sending the wrong message. To me, that means the terrorists have definitely won.