Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Cartoon Promo That Went Bad

I was driving yesterday as I heard the breaking news that Boston had been virtually shut down. A startling discovery had been made: Suspicious electronic devices had been planted throughout Boston at major strategic areas. Those areas included a major bridge and portions of highway.

These devices were little black circuit boards with a picture of a silly 1980s-style computer game figure flashing his middle finger. This caused authorities to suspect it was a hoax, of course, but it could also have been a nasty message on a detonation device. Wires hung from the devices, and as you can see, there's also something that looks suspicious at the base of it. Bomb squads were called in, and people waited in their cars for hours as the devices were removed.

Eventually it was discovered that the devices were simply an advertising ploy that went terribly wrong. The first to scramble to the mic to apologize was Turner Broadcasting. However, Interference Inc., the advertising firm that they hired, has made no comment yet. Interestingly, their website has been taken down. All that you can get is Google's usual synopsis which reads "A nationwide guerilla and alternative marketing agency from idiation through tactile implementation and staffing."

According to a 2001 interview with the CEO of Interference Inc., "Interference, Inc. will use street corner messengers, product samplings, publicity stunts, branded hitchhikers and other "random acts of kindness," anything to deliver a targeted message to a specific market."

The two men that were hired to distribute the devices have been arrested. As authorities pointed out, "Those conducting the campaign should have known the devices could cause panic because they were placed in sensitive areas."

Interestingly, it is most obvious that Turner Broadcasting and Interference Inc. intended these devices to raise a storm of controversy. No one pays for an advertising campaign that will create little or no publicity. The devices were placed in strategic places in 5 or 6 major cities, with the intent to initially frighten the viewer. I think they had assumed that someone would gasp and say "Oh look! A bomb!" and then, a moment later, say "Oh, it couldn't be. It's something cartoon-y. I wonder what it's all about?" However, I also think that they were fully aware that it might result in something this big: That was an added bonus. As one Hollywood promoter once said "There is no such thing as bad publicity."

Here is what should alarm us all: The devices had been planted in 5-6 major cities a couple of weeks ago. And yet, they were only discovered yesterday in one of those cities. If our society is so comfortable in it's denial of potential terrorist attacks, we are all doomed. This lack of alertness is alarming. Homeland Security needs to re-think it's current communications to the public, because they are not working.


Matt said...

Thanks for the reminder, Sauer. I'm going to try to be more vigilant.

QUASAR9 said...

Yep - it made the six o'clock news on the BBC, only in Boston could it be, that they'd take it all so seriously

Cranky Yankee said... the same time we can't live in a state of fear.

If I had seen one of these "devices," the last thing I would have thought was "terror." I live in a part of the country, not far from Boston, where people are always doing silly shit like that. Don't even get me started on the project mayhem type stunts I pulled when I was in college and in the military...

Actually now that I think of it if I had seen one of those "devices" it would be sitting in my garage right now.

This is what happens in a culture of fear.

Fear what you really should fear and don't worry about the rest. Most if not all of us should not place terrorism in the top 50 things we should fear.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Cranky, a very good point. But, I am concerned that no one brought it to anyone's attention. One shop owner was interviewed who had one of the devices over his store. He got a ladder, climbed up, took it down and examined it. He admitted that the batteries which were taped to the bottom looked kind of scary at first. So...was he smart to take it down to examine it? Not the sharpest knife in the drawer...

Quasar, I must admit, I would've wondered what it was. I wouldn't automatically have thought "this is a bomb", but I might have thought "this is something that I should alert the cops about, just in case..."
I don't think I would've ignored it completely, though. But, I would have to see the context they were in: did it truly look like a bomb (as the city officials claim)?

Matt, strangely enough, I was driving by a pest control truck this afternoon, and he was hooked up to a fire hydrant, getting water. I was with someone at the time, and we agreed it was smart to call the cops, just in case. We figured he couldn't possibly be doing anything legal! Was he flushing his tanks? Was he stealing water? Turns out he had a permit and this sort of thing is standard (I found out from calling his company directly).

The Lazy Iguana said...

Saur - I would have instantly known what that was all about. I happen to be a fan of the Mooninites and ATHF in general. I watch Adult Swim you see. So I would have just sat back and laughed at the madness.

Ask yourself these questions.

1. Would a terrorist intentionally place a LED sign on a bomb so that you notice it? Or would they just set the bombs in such a way that you do not notice them?

2. Could such a small sign cause that large of a kaboom? What kind of explosive would have to be used, and how hard would it be to get? Terrorists use the stuff that is easy to get or make, or what they happen to have on hand.

This was just an example of what happens when the bomb squad gets bored. Those guys just hang out, with all this equipment and nothing to do.

You would think that at least one of them would be an Adult Swim fan - there is really nothing else on when Aqua Teen Hunger Force is shown. Then they would have said "HEY! That is Ignot the Mooninite. But where is Err??"

The marketing campaign was not a good one. OK, so you see Ignot. But then what? You still have no idea what it is. You have no idea it is a catroon show on Adult Swim. You have no idea that it is shown Sunday - Thursday at midnight on Cartoon Network. You do not even know the name of the show!

By the way, rumor on the street is that there will be an ATHF movie.

So they call about the sign with the bright LEDs that cause you to notice them. But WHO calls about that large cardboard box on the side of the road? Nobody. Cause it looks like random trash. Well guess what? THAT is the kind of thing a terrorist will hide a bomb under.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Love it.


Get them taxes up to pay for all the Homeland Security...

The Lazy Iguana said...

We are the Mooninites. Our ways are so advanced that our weekends last all week. Behold, the quad laser.

I hope Homeland Security can see this because I am doing it as hard as I can.

Ed Abbey said...

I kind of agree with Lazy. Who would want to put the bomb on the middle of a freeway overpass. Sure you could take out... what... a dozen people?

I think Americans have lost their sense of humor. I would have had no problems walking up inspecting one of those had I seen one. Had I been in Iraq, it would have been a different story.

Cranky Yankee said...

I agree with ed. Lighten up America!

The more we panic over silliness the more the "terrorists" and the people who profit from us being in a constant state of fear win.

Anonymous said...

Things that light-up and look like cartoons and that are purposely *meant to catch the public’s attention as a marketing device* are pretty clearly not bombs. Not to mention that Boston’s response came after weeks of the campaign’s initial launch as it had in other cities much, much larger than Boston!? Criticism should squarely land on the city’s shoulders and the media should take responsibility to make sure a small marketing firm does not become a scapegoat for a very important public issue: the ineptitude of a major U.S. city in a post Sept. 11th world. Word. Mass Attorney General Coakley should be impeached for wasting time and taxpayer money for what amounts to a huge gaffe by Boston police and Mass homeland security. Interference Inc. CEO should be given an award for exposing such waste and inept public service.

Miss Cellania said...

They are Lite Brites. Thats why no one reported them as bombs... until someone in Boston panicked. As advertising, this has succeeded beyond all dreams... I was not familiar with Aqua Teen Hunger Force til this happened.

But NOW that we've gone through all this silliness, a simple Lite Brite would be a plausible hiding place for a bomb.

mckay said...

the funniest thing i saw about this news item was on they censored 'the finger'. as if those three little lights would offend the masses.


R2K said...

I think americans should take the time to learn about how bombs work and what they look like. I know most of americans are happy just being really really dumb, but if you are worried about terrorism you should learn the technology behind it. Bombs do not have lights on them - why would you want to show off your bomb to the world? Also, why wait a week to blow them up?

Yes it is very sad that it took these lame cops over a week to detect these things. Pathetic. But it is boston again right? The lame bosoton screeners let 9-11 happen. Pathetic.